Beautifully printed jumbo postcard designed and published by National Color Press, San Francisco, California in about 1949. This classic postcard has an image of the Hollywood Bowl with a packed audience and is
over 52 years old.
In July 11, 1922, with the audience seated on simple wooden benches placed on the natural hillsides of Bolton Canyon, conductor Alfred Hertz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic inaugurated the first season of music under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl. While much has changed in the ensuing years, the tradition of presenting the world's greatest musicians and striving for musical excellence has remained a constant goal of this famed Los Angeles cultural landmark.
One of the largest natural amphitheaters in the world, with a current seating capacity of just under 18,000, the Hollywood Bowl has been the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since its official opening in 1922, and, in 1991 gave its name to a resident ensemble that has filled a special niche in the musical life of Southern California, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
In spite of wars, depression on a national scale, financial stress, and internal dissension, the Bowl's summer music festivals have gone on, becoming as much a part of a Southern California summer as beaches and barbecues, the Dodgers and Disneyland. Thanks to the area's magnificent climate, only a handful of concerts during the Bowl's history have had to be postponed due to rain. The Bowl grounds themselves -- one of Los Angeles County's most renowned parks -- are open year-round for visitors to enjoy free of charge.
Visitors today may have difficulty believing that the Bowl is, indeed, 79 years old. The theatre itself-- visually not much different from the way it looked in the 1930s when Leopold Stokowski (pictured at right) conducted the Philharmonic or in 1964 when The Beatles played the Bowl-- seems ageless thanks to careful upkeep which maintains its architectural integrity. The grounds become more inviting each year, with added amenities to enhance the concert-going experience. Since the passage of County Proposition A in 1992, a major renovation plan has been implemented at the Bowl. Beginning with completion of Phase 1 in 1995, Bowl patrons and performers alike have benefited from significant improvements to the facility, including more comfortable seating; enhanced dining options; increased accessibility to all areas of the amphitheater; an updated box-office plaza, backstage area, and parking lots; substantially expanded restroom facilities; and much more. In addition, Hollywood Bowl concerts, dining, and other attractions are completely handicapped-accessible.
As a physical presence, the Bowl has come to symbolize Southern California -- its glamour, romance, fun, and great performing tradition. The magnificent amphitheater, with its signature arched proscenium, known worldwide, has evolved through the years with the creative assistance of three of architecture's luminaries. In 1926 Myron Hunt, famed for his design of another Southern California landmark -- the Rose Bowl in Pasadena -- designed the balloon-shaped seating area that seems to rise from the stage and embrace the hillside. Enlisting some of the most talented architects and designers in Los Angeles, the Bowl's music shell would see four incarnations between 1926 and 1929. Lloyd Wright, the oldest son of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed two of these shells for the Bowl in 1927 and 1928 , the second of which (pictured above) provided the inspiration for the current shell. In 1980, the internationally-renowned Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry created the fiberglass spheres that hang from the Bowl's shell to enhance the acoustics.
Of course, it is the incomparable performances that have truly made the Hollywood Bowl's history unique. Legendary artists have appeared at the Bowl throughout the years: Sinatra ... Pavarotti ... Streisand ... Stravinsky ... Heifetz. So have F.D.R., The Beatles, Mickey Rooney, and Edward G. Robinson, as well as such renowned "teams" as Fonteyn and Nureyev, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Simon and Garfunkel, and Abbott and Costello. Baryshnikov has danced there, as has Fred Astaire. Garth Brooks, Nat "King" Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Elton John, Al Jolson, and Judy Garland have headlined star-studded shows at the Bowl, but the all-time attendance record of 26,410 paid admissions was set on August 7, 1936, for a performance by the diminutive French opera star, Lily Pons.
As the site of a classical music festival, the Bowl has provided a showcase for the world's greatest musicians. Bernstein, Walter, Monteux, Koussevitzky, Stokowski, Karajan, Klemperer (pictured at right), and Leinsdorf, as well as Mehta, Giulini, Rattle, and Salonen are just a few of the renowned conductors who have led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in summertime concerts over the past seven decades. Itzhak Perlman, Gregor Piatigorsky, Artur Rubinstein, Alfred Brendel, Vladimir Horowitz, Jessye Norman, Plácido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Isaac Stern -- and other distinguished vocal and instrumental soloists too numerous to mention -- have graced the stage for Philharmonic concerts. But never during its long and illustrious history has the Bowl's programming been limited solely to symphonic events; fully staged operas were a regular part of the season in the early years, and the famed Bolshoi Ballet appeared during the 1950s.
Activities at the Bowl are not even necessarily of a musical nature. It is the scene of commencement exercises for Hollywood High School and other educational institutions. To the thousands of pre-concert picnickers who enjoy balmy summer evenings there it has become the place to dine. For innumerable film and TV producers, the 120-acre grounds have provided the perfect setting for dancing, romancing ... and even an occasional mystery! And on at least one recorded occasion the Hollywood Bowl was a romantic wedding chapel. On August 9, 1928, composer/conductor/pianist Percy Grainger and Ella Viola Strom were married on stage immediately after he conducted the world premiere of his tone poem To A Nordic Princess, dedicated to his bride.
A "hit" from its very first season (1922), the Hollywood Bowl has remained popular and accessible to a wide cross-section of Southern California's diverse population. Individual concert tickets were priced at under 50 cents during those early years, and to this day $1 buys a seat at the top of the Bowl for many of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's concerts during the Summer Festival season. In addition to subscription concerts of classical and popular music performed by the Bowl's resident orchestras, the summer schedule includes an ever-growing variety of musical presentations, including jazz programs, recitals, and performances by visiting ensembles, Fireworks Spectaculars, and big-screen movies-plus-music. During the day, the Bowl's youngest patrons enjoy Open House at the Bowl, the Southland's most popular summer arts festival for children, now in its 30th season.
Attendance figures over the past several decades have soared; in 1980 the Bowl first topped the half-million mark. Close to one million admissions were recorded for events at Summer Festival 97. This number also includes those who attended a variety of events that are independently produced, such as the annual Playboy Jazz Festival, the Mariachi USA Festival, and pop and country concerts.
In the future, the Hollywood Bowl will continue to expand the scope of its concert activities while also continuing its regimen of facility maintenance and upgrades that will enhance the concert-going experience for audiences at the world-famous concert center today and in the future.
The Bowl history is from the Hollywood Bowl Website at www.hollywoodbowl.org.
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