Musical Magic Under The Stars
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.
For the latest information about acoustics and architecture, read the Bowl Shell Project page.
The Beattles, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, Luciano Pavarotti
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.
Otto Klemperer, Arthur Rubinstein with conductor Izler Solomon, Pierre Rampal
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, 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, Arthur 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.
Not Just a Place for Music
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.
Hollywood Bowl program covers from 1930, 1950, 1970 and 1990.
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 SummerSounds, the Southland's most popular summer arts festival for children, in operation for more than 30 years.
Getting Bigger and Better
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.