There was an announcement at intermission Friday night at the Minnesota Orchestra’s Beethoven concert in Teatro Nacional de Cuba. Please, the speaker said, refrain from using cameras.
It made little difference as more than a dozen people operating TV and still cameras worked the hall, roamed the aisles and perched on the stage, all with the aim of capturing this historic moment. The orchestra’s visit to Havana this week has drawn crews from Al Jazeera America, the BBC and other U.S. and Latin American news outlets.
NBC correspondent Harry Smith sat in press row and heard the Minnesotans perform the Egmont Overture, the Choral Fantasy — featuring the Cuban National Choir and pianist Frank Fernández — and the Symphony No. 3, Eroica.
“I thought they killed it, in the good way, like the kids say,” Smith said after the sold-out concert let out. He said he was in Havana to work on several stories, “but mainly this,” the orchestra’s visit.
The concert drew many diplomats, some who attended a reception earlier Friday at the residence of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba.
“It was very generous, thank you for coming,” said Gerlinde Paschinger, the Austrian ambassador to Cuba. She was attending with Johannes Honsig-Erlenburg, president of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation.
“To bring together the Cuban musicality with the American spirit of freedom and life was wonderful,” Honsig-Erlenburg said.
“Obviously, it went over very well,” said DeLaurentis, who sat with Swedish Ambassador Elisabeth Eklund.
Guillermo Enrique Olompo Compas and Bismarck Cardosa Perez thought the musicians sounded excellent.
“Culture is a very important bond between the people of these two countries, despite what happens politically,” Olompo Compas said. “It is very impressive to have them here.”
Eduardo Bendedez was particularly pleased that Fernández was featured on the Choral Fantasy.
The orchestra will perform again Saturday night at the Teatro Nacional. The Minnesotans return home Sunday.