By Richard Rosenberg
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is now a dilapidated shadow of its former glory, with gaping holes in the sidewalks, crumbling buildings, dirty streets and, on every corner, a taxi driver trying to hustle you into a rusty wreck of a classic car.
Not so in the 1850s, when Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1826-1869) visited Cuba. At that time, the American was known internationally as a virtuosic, flamboyant pianist and composer—a sort of Elvis Presley of the Victorian era—and Havana was one of the premier centers of Western culture. The elegant 1837 Teatro Tàcon (now the Teatro Garcia Lorca) was one of the finest theaters in the world, and it was there, in 1859, that Gottschalk presented a “monster concert” with more than six hundred fifty musicians on the massive stage. Gottschalk took frequent trips to Cuba, his first lasting a year (1854-55). He traveled to Havana and many cities beyond, composing, conducting and enjoying his time as a cultural tourist. MORE