On arriving in Havana I got settled into Alina’s casa particular on the seventh floor of a deco apartment on San Juan de Dios in Havana Vieja. With this view of the El Capitolio:
A couple of hours later Jorge Fernandez, the Director of the Bienal, met me downstairs. Once composer Roberto Valera joined us we walked to dinner at Esto No Es Un Cafe (This is Not a Cafe) just off Plaza de la Catedral.
This tiny new paladar was started by an art curator who worked with Jorge at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Wilfredo Lam around the corner, of which Jorge is also Director.
We ordered our Santiago rums (straight up), made a toast to the opera, and Jorge jumped right on me about hiring a Director for the opera. I arrived with a couple of possibilities, and one additional theatre director to meet in Havana. Jorge was enthused about what I had to say about Charles Chemin. He’s a Paris-based director recommended to me by Robert Wilson, the well-known international theatre and opera director with whom Chemin works regularly as an assistant director and collaborator.
I had held off about hiring a director to honor the idea of hiring a Cuban. Valera offered that we go look for the Cuban director tomorrow, at her theatre. Not an unreasonable idea — but not knowing if she was in town, at the theatre, interested, or even available I pictured a wild-goose chase lasting several days. I expressed my doubt about that strategy.
“Well, you’re excited about Chemin,” Fernandez said.
“True, I like him a lot.”
Neither he nor Valera objected to a European director.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll call Chemin tomorrow and offer him the job.”
And so I did, the next day by email, from my Havana “office” — the second floor lounge at the Parque Central Hotel.
And just my luck: Wi-Fi charges in the hotel had suddenly dropped by more than half: from 10 CUCs/hour (about $10) to 4.5/hour ($4.50)! Tangible evidence things like Internet connectivity and its costs are changing due to the breakthrough in US-Cuban relations.
Chemin answered by email: “Great! I’m looking forward. Excited about this project.”
You can read about our wonderful Stage Director, Charles Chemin, here.