By age 90, many world-famous divas have retired their voices and have stopped touring. But not Omara Portuondo, who just turned 93 this past Sunday.
Instead, the legendary singer, perhaps best known as the lead vocalist in the Buena Vista Social Club, will be performing at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 1 in the Gartner Auditorium as part of the museum's Performing Arts Series.
The Buena Vista Social Club was formed in 1996 as a group of multi-generational, primarily Cuban, musicians who rose to fame in 1997 with the release of its self-titled album. Portuondo, known as the Grand Dame of classic Cuban music, is now in her seventh decade of performing.
“She’s had a long and storied career,” says Gabe Pollack, CMA’s director of performing arts. “Many people know her through Buena Vista Social Club, but she was world-renowned before that as well.”
Pollack says that although Portuondo performed her “birthday show” in Seattle this past Sunday, “this is her first official show as a 93-year-old,” he quips.
Portuondo performed at Tri-C Jazz Fest in 2002, and the last time she was in Cleveland was when Cuyahoga Community College brought her to the Lakewood Civic Auditorium in 2016. Portuondo’s VIDA was nominated for a 2023 Latin Grammy for Best Tropical Album and she has been nominated three times for a Grammy Award.
At CMA on Wednesday, Portuondo will be accompanied by a Cuban quartet made up of Jose Portillo on piano, Ramses Rodriguez on drums, Lino Piquero on bass, and Degnis Bofill on percussion.
Pollack says he tries to curate a variety of performing arts experiences at CMA throughout the year, creating a destination for both the visual and performing arts.
In fact, he says CMA will host 60 to 70 performances by the end of the year, which include Gartner Auditorium performances, Tasting Notes in Provenance restaurant, Chamber Music in the Galleries and in the Atrium, MIX, Solstice, and City Stages.
Pollack says that shows at the Transformer Station should begin in late spring 2024.
Tickets for the Omara Portuondo concert in Gartner Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. are $43 to $59.