The Minnesota Orchestra’s historic trip to Cuba was a huge success by several measures. State residents should be proud of the positive international attention the tour generated for the orchestra and Minnesota.
The orchestra’s whirlwind four-day tour was the first by a large American orchestra in Cuba in more than 15 years — and the first since the Obama administration began normalizing relations. The concerts offered a rare opportunity for Cubans to hear a major internationally known orchestra and represented an important milestone in reopening U.S.-Cuba relations.
Though discussions are underway to change travel restrictions, many of the federally imposed rules are still in place. America and Cuba haven’t had normal trade and travel relations in more than 50 years. Getting the clearance needed to move 150 people and their instruments directly from Minneapolis to Havana was no small feat. Similar tours to other parts of the world take years to plan, but the Cuba trip was organized in a few months. Both the Friday and Saturday concerts sold out to enthusiastic Cuban crowds, and the music was broadcast live for U.S. audiences to enjoy.
And the tour brought welcome and potentially profitable attention to Minnesota as a state that is ready to do business and warm relations with the Caribbean nation. This major step in musical, artistic diplomacy can help open doors to other kinds of exchange between Minnesota and Cuba.
The trip underscored not only the changing relations between the countries, but also the healing process the orchestra is experiencing after a bitter 16-month lockout that ended early last year. The group lost 30 percent of its subscribers after Orchestra Hall closed for remodeling in June 2012 and the lockout started, and capacity this season has run just under 70 percent.
Although the orchestra’s endowment is healthier now, the group has a ways to go to recapture what was lost in public goodwill during the lockout. Here’s hoping that the orchestra will benefit from the momentum of its triumphant tour and that Minnesotans will show their support by buying tickets to see and hear the same world-class ensemble that played to rave reviews in Cuba.