Colombian production company Fox Telecolombia has found the person who will play Celia Cruz in an upcoming biographic series that will start filming shortly.
The chosen actress is Aymée Nuviola, a Cuban singer living in Miami who will play Cruz as an adult, the time of greatest success in her career until her death in New York on July 16, 2003.
Nuviola was recently nominated for a Latin Grammy in the category of Best Tropical Album for her most recent production, First Class to Havana. Sources familiar with the TV production, who asked not to be identified because the official news release is not out yet, said the biographic series will be carried by the Colombian television network RCN.
She is considered one of the artists who can best interpret and relive the style of singing and dancing of Celia Cruz, whom she will honor in a concert in November as part of the Cuba Beat series produced by Eventus. She will share the Arsht Center stage with two other popular singers, Lucrecia and Xiomara Laugart.
Born in Havana, Nuviola is part of a family of musicians that includes her sister Lourdes Nuviola, also a singer; her niece Paola Guanche, winner of Telemundo’s La Voz Kids contest; her brother, percussionist Alexander “Pupi’ Carriera, who has occasionally played in her band; and her cousin Luis Bofill, one of the most outstanding musicians in Miami.
Nuviola‘s voice has become part of a YouTube hit with a rendition of Cuba’s soul song, Guantanamera, belted out by a group of Cuban musicians who recorded on the island, as well as in Spain, Miami and as far away as Japan. The video, which has drawn more than 470,000 “likes” on YouTube, was produced by the Los Angeles-based non-profit organization Playing for Change, which travels the world gathering musicians who have recorded versions of well-known songs such as Stand by Me, originally interpreted by African-American musician Ben E. King; Imagine, by John Lennon, and La Bamba, to mention only a few of the projects this group has worked on with the support of celebrities like Bono and Sting.
“My part was recorded in CubaOcho,” Nuviola said of her singing snippet in the Guantanamera video, which began production in 2011 and was released just a few months ago. “They had a concept, an arrangement, an instrumentation. They contacted me through my cousin Bofill.”
Bofill and Carriera are also part of the group of Miami Cuban musicians who take part on the Playing for Change video, which also includes pianist Michelle Fragoso, trumpeter Carlos Puig, saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia, and trombonist Braily Ramos. The participants from Cuba are author/singer Carlos Varela, singer Diana Fuentes, pianist Ernán López-Nussa, the group Síntesis, the now-deceased guitarist Manuel Galbán, founder of the famous group Zafiros and who was also in Buena Vista Social Club. There is also a good representation of younger musicians such as X Alfonso and Reinaldo Elosegui, who share with veteran artists like Eva Griñán, also deceased, and guitarist Gabino Jardines, the group La Pasión, from Santiago de Cuba, and Conga San Agustín.
“The Guantanamera was dressed in a suit and a tie and in a beautiful guayabera,” Bofill said about the video produced by the Argentinian musician Enzo Buono.
“It was a beautiful experience, the whole world is watching us play the most significant song of the Cuban songbook,” Bofill added. His part was recorded in Key Biscayne, on the beach located at the entrance of the key, and in El Farito, (Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park) because the producers did not want to stage it at a place identified with the more touristic part of Miami.
Bofill said that the creators of Playing for Change like to feature alternative music with a global theme, but Guantanamera was the first dedicated to and by people of the same country, Cuba.
A second video production was dedicated to Colombia with the theme La Tierra del Olvido (The Land of Oblivion), a hit by Carlos Vives, which also includes a long list of popular Colombian musicians such as Totó La Momposina.
On the Celia Cruz TV series, Nuviola has said that she did not meet the Cuban icon until she was 20 years old, though by then she knew Cruz’s repertoire while living in Spain.
“I was stunned. I was 20 years old and for me it was an incredible experience. These are things that stay on your mind,” Nuviola told People en Español. “I was introduced to her by the Dominican singer Johnny Ventura and I was fascinated. Celia just took off the earrings she was wearing and gave them to me. I gave her mine. It was an act of affection. She told me: ‘This is a difficult career,’ but she encouraged me.”
“If Fox Telecolombia confirms Aymée Nuviola in the role, they couldn’t have found a better candidate,” said Omer Pardillo, Cruz’s manager in the last decade of her life and now the only steward of her estate. “She is Cuban, a good singer and, above all, a good person, which Celia Cruz reflected in her personal life.”