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Flamenco in Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts

It was a Friday night in February, as beautiful and balmy as a Miami night in February can be, and at the Knight Concert Hall in the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts a sell-out crowd had filled the 2,200 seat house for the second of three Flamenco performances, part of the month-long “Flamenco Festival Miami.”


On  a stage bare but for five seats draped in black, the lights dimmed, and the Gypsy guitarist José Fernández Torres – known as Tomatito -- walked out and modestly took the center position. The rest of the Tomatito Quintet followed: vocalist La Tana and dancer José Maya taking positions to his right, guitarist El Cristi and percussionist Lucky Losada to his left. All were dressed in black but for a red scarf draped around La Tana’s neck. And in this simplest of settings, with minimal amplification, the Tomatito Quintet performed an hour and a half of Flamenco setting off enough sparks to threaten the breakers that kept electricity flowing through the orchestra and three tiers of the brand new concert hall.


The youthful-looking Grammy-winning Tomatito comes from a family of outstanding Flamenco guitarists, and that this music rests deep in his DNA was evident in a performance of supreme virtuosity with masterly execution of complex compás (meters) that were echoed in the intricate rhythmic clapping of the group. One number flowed into another: solos by Tomatito, impassioned singing by La Tana, and dances of dizzying rapidity and power executed by the gypsy Flamenco dancer José Maya. Each revealed the heart so essential to Flamenco, touching emotional chords from piercing poignancy to fierce combativeness.

Considered one of the leading flamenco guitarists of his generation, Tomatito is reputedly on his way to becoming one of the greats of all times. This exceptional performance that kept an audience mesmerized and ultimately on its feet with long-lasting accolades would seem to vouchsafe such a prediction. It was a night to remember.


Reportedly the nights before and after were equally memorable. On Thursday, the legendary Carmen Linares and contemporary Flamenco stylist Miguel Poveda performed a range of songs that bridged the generations accompanied by Grammy nominee guitarist  Juan Carlos Romero and dancer Pastora Galvãn. On Saturday, a trio of outstanding dancers: Merche Esmeralda, Belen Maya, and Rocio Molina, together with singer Diana Navarro, performed a tribute to women via Flamenco in a performance directed by the dancer and choreographer Mario Maya.

Among the related events and activities that accompany the Flamenco Festival is an exhibit of black and white photographs by the extraordinary Gilles Larrain. Aptly titled “Flamenco: Landscape of the Soul,” it reveals the dimensions of Flamenco as it is lived and perpetuated in its home ground Andalusia. (At the Centro Cultural Espanol in Coral Gables through March 7).


The Flamenco Festival is part of the Adrienne Arsht  Center’s first season. Conceived over a decade ago, the Center which staged a gala four-day grand opening in October 2006, has provided Miami with a brilliant jewel to add to its tiara of cultural institutions. Spread across nearly six acres  in the heart of downtown, it is to Miami what Lincoln Center is to New York or the Kulturforum to Berlin with one significant distinction – a locale just a few blocks from Biscayne Bay.


Before Adrienne Arsht’s $30 million gift, the center had been named for another benefactor, the Carnival Corporation (which relinquished naming rights in favor of Ms. Arsht after the announcement of her extraordinary donation). But the cruise ship association persists in the Knight Concert Hall – a white streamlined structure that looks like one of the glittering sea palaces lined up at the nearby Port of Miami. Within the hall, one has the sensation of being on a luxury liner. The orchestra is one level up from the lobby and accessed by a pair of grand divided stairways lined with etched glass railings. Within, the three tiers that overlook the orchestra are lined with small lights reminiscent of those on the exterior of a cruise-ship. Soaring roof lines, great spaces, terrazzo floors all add to the sensation of being on a grand luxury liner; great coppery rings on the ceiling from which theatrical lights are suspended and seating upholstered in a velvet-like fabric of burnt coral suggest a sunset at sea.


Directly across Biscayne Boulevard, the Ziff-Ballet Opera House echoes the architectural and design features of the Knight Concert Hall. The night of the Tomasito Quintet appearance, Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” was on the Opera house stage. Between the two venues, patrons can look forward to Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphony with guest star Itzhak Perlman, “Tosca,” the Dresden Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Fifth, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and AvenueQ --  and in concert: Christine Andreas, Bernaldette Peters, Martin Short. With such a catalogue, the Adrienne Arsht Center is off to an impressive start.


Photo by Jack Vartoogian

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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