Omara Portuondo Shows No Signs of Slowing Down in Brooklyn

October 20th, 2016

Omara Portuondo – Brooklyn Academy of Music – October 19, 2016

Legendary Cuban singer and dancer Omara Portuondo treated last night’s audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to a vivacious and spirited performance as part of her 85 Tour, a number which also happens to be her age. Having begun performing in 1940s Cuba, Portuondo has had an accomplished career—accompanying Nat King Cole and participating in the popular Buena Vista Social Club project, among many other accolades.

Addressing the audience in Spanish, Portuondo enlisted pianist and bandleader Roberto Fonseca to translate her greetings to the crowd, and he informed us at the beginning of the show that Portoundo instructed us to “dance, scream and get crazy.” True to her request, she had us out of our seats, swaying and clapping along by the first song, “Lágrimas Negras.” Although a chair was provided for her, Portuondo rarely sat, preferring to subtly shake her hips and clap along to the music as she sang. Portuondo has invited special guests to accompany her on this tour, and clarinetist Anat Cohen and violinist Regina Carter joined the band on several numbers, showcasing their incredible skills and garnering their own standing ovations from the crowd.

After treating us to other such favorites as “La Ultima Noche” and “Guantanamera,” Portuondo and her fellow musicians took their bows, and as satisfied audience members began to stand, stretch and get ready to leave, Portuondo seemed to just be getting started. She sat down in her chair and consulted with Fonseca, inviting audience members to shout out requests for an impromptu encore. Portuondo closed the performance with two favorites, “Dos Gardenias” and “Besame Mucho,” as the crowd obligingly and cheerfully sang along. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK