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Albita: Carmen La Cubana

Albita is a Grammy and Emmy-winning Cuban-American singer, producer and composer, who launched her new single ‘Se Te Cayo El Tabaco’ (You Dropped Your Cigar) on Friday 3rd August to coincide with her Sadler’s Wells appearance in the sizzling new musical Carmen La Cubana.

Carmen La Cubana runs at Sadler’s Wells until 18th August and features Bizet’s classic score flavoured with authentic Cuban styles. It’s a sultry take on one of the most famous operas ever created, set against the simmering turmoil of Revolution in Cuba, 1958.

Inspired by Oscar Hammerstein II’s Broadway hit Carmen Jones, Christopher Renshaw (The King and I) directs this UK premiere, with new orchestrations by Tony Award-winner Alex Lacamoire the orchestrator, arranger and musical director of the Broadway hit Hamilton, mixing opera with salsa, mambo, rumba and cha-cha-cha and including musical favourites such as “Habanera”. Featuring a large company of singers, dancers and musicians, the role of a “Santera” (a worshipper of Saints) was especially written for Albita by British Director Christopher Renshaw.

The new single ‘Se Te Cayo El Tabaco’ is taken from her 14th album ‘ALBITA’ also released on 3rd August. It captures the feel of pre-Revolutionary Cuba’s golden age of music of the 1950s, with tracks that reflect the global sound that permeated the island then, and the international scope of the artists who performed them in Havana. The repertoire including dynamic brass and arrangements was performed by 17 musicians in the studio “without cutting and pasting, the idea was to pay homage to Havana in the 1950s,” says Rodríguez, “with very young musicians who approach playing the songs from the present day. We wanted to recreate the spirit of that Havana that was so incredible.”

To that end, the album includes the piquant ‘Se Te Cayó El Tobacco (You Dropped Your Cigar’) and a saucy payback version of ‘L-O-V-E,’ sung in English with her thick Cuban accent. Other highlights include her powerful rumba version of the classic ‘Angelitos Negros,’ and Simon Diaz’s ‘La Vaca Mariposa,’ performed with criollo singer and cuatro player Rafael Pollo Brito. Brazilian pop singer Alexandre Pires joins Albita on Jorge Ben Jor’s international hit ‘Pais Tropical,’ from 1969. Ednita Nazario is featured on 1949’s flirty ‘Loca,’ popularized by the Sonora Matancera with Myrta Silva. Whilst Ana Gabriel and Albita bring joyous gusto to the Pedro Flores bolero ‘Perdon.’

Born in Havana, Cuba, Albita Rodríguez is one of the most authentic voices in Latin music. A musical maverick, a political renegade, a suave diva of Cuban song who started her career in traditional suits and slicked-back hair and was applauded by the LA Times as “the reincarnation of a 1930’s European chanteuse, a Berlin cabaret singer transfused with Latin blood”.

Her high-energy performances combine all genres of Cuban music: Rumba, Mambo, Son, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Folk. She does it with true authenticity to her Cuban roots. Her electrifying and mesmerising performance of contagious Cuban music has elevated her career to an international level, performing all throughout Europe, Latin America, Australia, Africa and Malaysia. She has shared the stage with such greats as the late Celia Cruz, Tito Puentes, Oscar de Leon, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Tito Nieves, Daniela Mercury, Miriam Makeeba, Phil Collins, Melissa Etheridge, and Tony Bennett.

No stranger to the stage, in 2005 Albita signed a contract with producers from Broadway for a major role in the Musical Play “The Mambo Kings”. Albita’s role as Evalina Montoya received outstanding reviews portraying her as a charismatic and outstanding performer, with a commanding presence on stage through the power of her voice and performance. She now finally returns to the stage in Carmen La Cubana at Sadler’s Wells on until 18th August.

Albita’s new album ‘Albita’ is out now. Carmen La Cubana is at Sadler’s Wells runs until August 18th. SEEN was fortunate enough to quiz Albita during her run…

SEEN: Congratulations on ‘Carmen La Cubana’! Carmen is such a classic, can you give us a hint of what’s different about this latest version?
ALBITA: This Cuban version of Bizet’s classic Carmen is about Cuban culture in the 50’s. All the original music took to the magic Cuban musical genres, as well as the different styles of voices. It is still a story of love and lack of love under the magic of Cuban music.

S: How do you find London audiences?
A: It has been wonderful, since the opening night, the audience connects very well with music, dance and voices and despite the different language, the magic of communication is achieved.

S: You have your single and album released at the same time as the show! Will you be playing other venues as well?
A: At this time I could not do other performances. The musical is something that requires a lot of time and care to be in the best shape. The tour will be throughout Germany, London and China until the end of the year. The new album was nominated for Latin and American Grammys and for now it will have to wait until 2019.

S: You’ve shared the stage with stars Like Miriam Makeeba, Phil Collins and Tito Puentes – is there anyone else you would love to perform with?
A: Ah! It would be a dream come true; Annie Lennox, she is fantastic!

S: Is there anywhere in London that you want to visit while you’re here?
A: I would like to and visit and sing at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s. Since my beginnings in music I have always heard about this iconic place and it has always been a dream to fulfil.

Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue