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MN Orchestra will be first US ensemble to play in Cuba since diplomatic thaw

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Just weeks after scoring a gig at the world-famous Carnegie Hall, the Minnesota Orchestra has lined up another landmark performance – and it could be one for the history books.

The orchestra will perform two concerts in Cuba this May. According to a release, the visit would make it the first American orchestra to play there since President Obama announced the U.S. would move to normalize relations with the island country.

The U.S. and Cuba have had an icy relationship since the early 1960s, shortly after Fidel Castro took power and established a communist regime in the country.

But the Minnesota Orchestra's history with Cuba stretches back further – the release says they last visited Havana, the capital, on two successive tours in 1929 and 1930. Back then, the ensemble was known as the Minneapolis Symphony.

The Associated Press called it the "first major cultural exchange" since the countries' recent agreement.

“We are honored to have received this invitation from the Cuban Ministry of Culture," Kevin Smith, Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO, said. He added the musicians postponed a vacation week to "take advantage of an incredible opportunity."

Their performances will part of the 19th annual Cubadisco Festival, which will focus on symphonic and choral music.

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