Morning in Havana before traveling to Cienfuegos
Today was our final morning in Havana before traveling to Cienfuegos. After a hearty breakfast of French toast and pineapple (but not together), we boarded the buses for the three hour ride through the balmy Cuban countryside. Havana, with its more intimate, cluttered streets, contrasted with the double-wide bustling roads of Cienfuegos. The two sides of traffic were divided by a cement island lined with benches and locals enjoying the Saturday afternoon sun (“Hundred Fires” was an appropriate name). We rode straight to El Teatro de Thomas Terry for rehearsal for our first concert of the tour!
Performing at this theater was certainly unlike anything we Californians have ever experienced. Entering the venue, we saw that the stage was tilted toward the audience, like an attraction from The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. Above the ornate seats was a massive and extravagant painting heralding the Sistine Chapel. Rehearsal, as well as the performance, had no air conditioning, and we relied on several strategically placed fans to cool us off and less so to blow our music off our stands. Luckily the practice went smoothly, and Maestro Omid gave us gentlemen permission to roll up our dress shirt sleeves as much as desired.
Shuffling off stage, we quickly bussed to Hotel Jagua, checked in, changed, and had a filling outdoor buffet with live music before returning to the theater. Until I stood backstage, waiting to man my seat, questioning why I owned wool dress pants, it had not hit me that we would soon be performing for two hundred expectant Cubans. But all throughout the performance, starting with the goofy and joyous “Candide Overture” by Bernstein, followed by the Vieuxtemps Violin Concerto with a fantastic Cuban soloist, Borodin’s “Polovetsian Dances,” and ending with Prokofiev’s turbulent “Romeo and Juliet,” the audience was very receptive of our admirable performance. We sloshed back to the hotel to our air conditioned rooms and a well earned night’s rest.