Friday, April 19th
Omara Portuondo Live at The Regent Theatre
Price: $32.50 - $65
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Havana’s legendary songstress bids adieu with her final L.A. appearance. From The Buena Vista Social Club: OMARA PORTUONDO “Last Kiss” Farewell Tour.
Omara was born in the barrio of Cayo Hueso, in Havana, known for its musicality. There was some scandal in the family. Her mother Esperanza Peláez came from a wealthy family of Spanish ancestry who assumed she would marry a rich, white man with a high social position. In fact, she ran away with a tall, handsome, black baseball player called Bartolo Portuondo. For years they could not walk down the street in public, but the marriage endured. Bartolo was a friend of the national poet Nicolás Guillén and a lover of music and the house, lacking a gramophone, was filled with singing.
As a shy 15 year old, she broke into the lush, sequined world of cabaret, following in the chorus line shoes of sister Haydee, and became a dancer at the Tropicana, the glamorous club that continues still in Havava, a frozen relic of the decadent pre-Revolutionary days. But singing was her forté, and she would spend weekends singing American jazz with the blind pianist Frank Emilio in his band Loquibambia Swing. The band was a mélange of pan-American sounds and they created a new sound called “fillin” –feeling – and Omara was dubbed “La novia de fillin”,“the girlfriend of feeling.
She sang in the in the all girl Orquesta Anacaona in 1952, before with Haydee, with another female group Cuarteto D’Aida, a 1950s Cuban Spice Girls, directed and named after pianist Aida Diestro. Things began to really move for Omara and the group were signed to RCA Victor, toured the U.S. and backed up some of the biggest stars of the moment like Benny Moré (“the Barbarian of Rhythm”), Edith Piaf, Bola de Nieve and Nat King Cole at the Tropicana. This was at the peak of the glamour, some say kitsch, of the famous nightclub.
As a soloist Omara accompanied some of the great innovators like Arsenio Rodriguez and Isolina Carillo. Her first solo album was not, as with other Buena Vista Social Club members, after the release of that ground breaking album but was way back in 1959, entitled Black Magic.
Omara Portuondo is a diva in the best sense, an ambassador of Cuba to the world. Now in her mid-eighties, there is a sense in which the curtains of an era are slowly, elegantly coming down. But she will forever, as the old showbusiness adage has it “Always leave them wanting more.”
448 S Main Street
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