Cuba, Florida Orchestra embark on cultural exchange


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In a rare cross-cultural collaboration, two classical-music groups from Cuba and the United States will engage in a multiyear partnership that will include American musicians performing in Havana. The Florida Orchestra, based in Tampa Bay, said its collaboration with Cuba’s Music Institute of Havana will start in September.

The Florida Orchestra said the partnership is expected to include an ensemble of its principal musicians giving a concert and leading master classes at the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana. The U.S. musicians are also to perform with members of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba and bring donated instruments from the U.S.


Organizers said one of their goals is to send the entire Florida Orchestra to Cuba to perform as early as the 2012-13 season.

The St. Petersburg Times reported that the orchestra has received permission to travel to Cuba from the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees trade with Cuba.

Artists from Cuba periodically travel to the U.S. -- the National Ballet of Cuba is scheduled to perform this month at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and at the Music Center. But it is rarer for American artists to set foot in Cuba.

In 1999, the Milwaukee Symphony became the first major U.S. music group to perform in Cuba since the communist revolution. In 2009, the New York Philharmonic canceled its planned concert series in the island nation due to embargo restrictions that would have prevented orchestra patrons from travelling with the group. The amount of cultural exchange between the hostile nations has increased in recent years as the U.S. has sought to ease travel restrictions. In November, the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre sent dancers to Cuba for the 22nd International Ballet Festival in Havana.

Members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra -- a student ensemble from Massachusetts -- are currently in Cuba as part of a concert series.


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-- David Ng

Upper photo: In Havana, a man rides a motorcycle past a mural of a painted Cuban national flag with the names of former leader Fidel Castro and President Raul Castro. Credit: Desmond Boylan / Reuters

Lower photo: A motorist waves a Cuban flag. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images