The Cleveland Museum of art is proud to present Cuba’s legendary vocalist Omara Portuondo as part of her Farewell World Tour Vida 2023.
Portuondo is the grande dame of classic Cuban song. Even in her 90s—her seventh decade of performing—she remains a beloved chanteuse and celebrated entertainer. In her final performances before retirement, Portuondo is sharing a retrospective of her life in music, simply called “Vida.” Critics and fans alike have marveled at the quality and purity of Portuondo’s prodigious voice. Her versatility has allowed her to move from one style to another with complete mastery throughout her career—from jazz to Nueva Trova, Cuban traditional music to son, danzón, boleros, and more.
Outside her native Cuba, Portuondo is most recognized for her work with Buena Vista Social Club. The Cuban ensemble’s eponymous debut album went on to sell more than 8 million copies and win both the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Performance and the Tropical/Salsa Album of the Year by a Group at the 1998 Billboard Latin Music Awards; the accompanying 1999 film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 72nd Academy Awards.
But even before this, Portuondo’s star was secure in the Caribbean and throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Between the 1950s and ’90s, she cofounded Cuarteto d’Aida, became a notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook, and released nearly a dozen records. Despite the racism, misogyny, revolution, and socioeconomic and political controversies in Cuba during those decades, Portuondo used her voice as a driving force to celebrate Afro-Cuban music on the island and spread joy and community around the world.
In the 21st century, Portuondo began to receive the global recognition commensurate with a career of her stature. She has been awarded prizes, medals, honorary degrees, and more from around the world, including the laureate of the Order of Félix Varela (the highest decoration in Cuban culture), the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport, and the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese emperor, not to mention a music-specific Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Latin American and world music.
To this day, Portuondo is still referred to as “The Cubanísima Omara Portuondo” and “The Diva of Buena Vista.” She is a genuine symbol of her country’s deep and enduring culture.
Omara Portuondo- voice
Jose Portillo - piano
Ramses Rodriguez - drums
Lino Piquero - bass
Degnis Bofill - percussion
$43–$59, CMA members $38–$53