Believing the arts to be an important restorative touchstone between the United States and Cuba, President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities assembled a delegation of artists to embark on a groundbreaking cultural exchange in April 2016. Among the members of this landmark journey overseas was violinist Joshua Bell. In Cuba, he performed classics like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Chamber Orchestra of Havana, an ensemble comprising many of the country’s most heralded musicians.
On November 1, Lincoln Center will reunite these world-class talents in a one-night-only presentation of Seasons of Cuba. In addition to Joshua Bell and the Chamber Orchestra of Havana, the concert will feature special guests like Dave Matthews.
The experience will then be shared with millions of viewers around the world—for free—as a future Live From Lincoln Center broadcast on PBS. A benefit performance, Seasons of Cuba will raise funds for all of Lincoln Center’s artistic presentations and community outreach programs as part of the 2016 Fall Gala.
In the days ahead of this sensational evening, Lincoln Center’s Board of Directors will depart on an unprecedented trip to Havana—further connecting us with Cuba’s rich cultural heritage, firsthand.
A milestone event, Seasons of Cuba is also part of a time-honored tradition of featuring Cuban artists in Lincoln Center festivals and programs. We’ve taken a look back at highlights from Lincoln Center's history with the rich cultural heritage of Cuba.
Cuban Artists at Lincoln Center
Cuban influence has long resonated across the stages of Lincoln Center. In preparation for the historic Seasons of Cuba concert, we’ve compiled a playlist featuring some of the artists who have performed here.
An early favorite is classical pianist Horacio Gutiérrez, who starred in his own Live From Lincoln Center performance in 1985. The artist continued to play at Great Performers and Mostly Mozart concerts through 2002.
Tiempo Libre is a more recent recurring favorite, bringing their Afro-Caribbean flair to scores of dancers during back-to-back seasons of Midsummer Night Swing in 2002 and 2003. They also collaborated with Joshua Bell for Para Ti, which was filmed for Live From Lincoln Center in 2010.
When the David Rubenstein Atrium opened its doors on November 19, 2009, the night kicked off with the Sexteto Rodriguez Cuban-Jewish All Stars featuring Roberto Rodriguez—capturing the tone and mission of the Atrium, which focuses on diverse disciplines, emerging artists, and free performances for all ages and backgrounds.
In 2011, Broadway’s Raúl Esparza took the stage for a concert as part of American Songbook:
“Exploring his roots as the son of Cuban émigrés, Mr. Esparza was joined by an excellent 12-member orchestra that traveled stylistically between Havana and New York by way of South Florida. Born in Wilmington, Delaware, and raised in Miami, Mr. Esparza reminisced at length about his Cuban heritage and his childhood and adolescence as he performed in both Spanish and English.” (New York Times)
When the travel embargo to Cuba was lifted in 2014, it created an incredible opportunity for Lincoln Center to feature Cuban artists. That year brought Diálogos de Diaspora to the Atrium, featuring a conversation and performance with saxophonists Miguel Zenón and Yosvany Terry. At Midsummer Night Swing, Conjunto Chappottin y Sus Estrellas lit up Damrosch Park with some of the most renowned son sounds Cuba has to offer. During Lincoln Center Out of Doors that same summer, there was a rare New York appearance by Pupy y Los Que Son Son, led by pianist César “Pupy” Pedroso—one of Cuba’s most prolific songwriters, timba performers, and pop music figures.
The past year alone has brought even more incredible Cuban artists to Lincoln Center. In March, the Atrium hosted a screening and talk-back for VICE’s Viva Cuba Libre. In June, crowds filled the dance floor when Septeto Santiaguero—2015 Latin Grammy Award winners for Best Tropical Album—made their U.S. debut at Midsummer Night Swing. We also brought Cuban-born choreographer Pedro Ruiz’s Club Havana to movie theaters across the country with our Lincoln Center at the Movies presentation of Ballet Hispanico.
That same month, Pedrito Martinez—who thrilled fans with free performances at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in 2002 and 2011—met with Downbeat magazine at the Atrium to discuss his relationship with Lincoln Center, what it was like to work with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and his newest album, Habana Dreams. He’ll be making his official debut at the Atrium with a free performance on February 24, 2017.
While by no means exhaustive, these highlights offer a taste of the Cuban flavor spanning Lincoln Center’s festivals and venues. We’re thrilled to add Seasons of Cuba to the storied lineup this fall.
Lincoln Center’s Cuban Music Playlist
Enjoy this musical preview in anticipation of the Fall Gala, on November 1, 2016, when we once again showcase Cuba’s rich cultural heritage right here at Lincoln Center—and share an evening of international artistic excellence that highlights the power of the arts in building cross-cultural bonds. Then keep an eye out for future broadcast dates of Live From Lincoln Center: Seasons of Cuba on PBS.
To learn more about the Fall Gala or Seasons of Cuba, please contact Lily Lovinger at [email protected] or 212.875.5433.
Tracie Murphy is a writer for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.