Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lemon: My Beloved Cuba . . . "Vida at the Royal Alex"

I've been to somewhere over north and south of twenty countries. But outside of my own, to me, only one matters.
Tonight I was thrilled with a representation of the history of modern Cuba through the eyes of an old woman. The old woman was legendary Buena Vista Social Club songstress, Omara Portuondo.
Cuba is a confusing ruse, difficult enough for regular visitors to understand and impossible for anyone who has not. It certainly can not be discovered by reading a Miami Herald article nor by watching phoney baloney documentaries by Oliver Stone or Michael Moore. Almost everything North Americans see, hear and read about Cuba is incorrect.
But there is one thing of which all can be assured; that Cubans are talented on a scale well beyond their tiny population.
In the past six months I have revelled in Juan de Marco's "Afro-Cuban Allstars" at Massey Hall, to the Cuban Ballet Nacional at Habana's Gran Teatro, and tonight Lizt Alfonso's "Vida" at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre.
Omara is almost 80, and her eyes are as clear and voice as strong as anyone else in the thirty person cast. Even those outstanding performers under the age of ten.
The cast of the performance is entirely female, save brilliant male principal Vadim Larramendi. But gracing the Toronto stage at the highest level of talent, personality and sheer peromance is Vadim's novia in the show, Yudisley Martínez. She epitomizes Cuba and exudes the full range of emotions in her dance that her fellows have been forced to survive.
Teh chorus and other principals perform individually and as a group perfectly.
The story shows the life of Vida (Omara) from a small child, through her youth and first love (who is thrown in prison), on to his return and subsequent defection to (assumably) the USA, to her old age.
The performance is fully up to Cuban standards.
Which means it is among the most expressive, passionate and ell performed live shows in Toronto in this or any year.
My rating is the highest:

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