Hollywood Bowl – USA, North America
The Hollywood Bowl is a modern amphitheater in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, California, United States that is used primarily for music performances. It is the largest natural amphitheater in the United States, with a seating capacity of nearly 18,000.
The Hollywood Bowl is known for its band shell, a distinctive set of concentric arches that graced the site from 1929 through 2003, before being replaced with a somewhat larger one beginning in the 2004 season. The shell is set against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood Sign to the Northeast.
The “bowl” refers to the shape of the concave hillside the amphitheater is carved into. The bowl is owned by the County of Los Angeles and is the home of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the host of hundreds of musical events each year.
It is located at 2301 North Highland Avenue, north of Hollywood Blvd and the Hollywood & Highland subway station and south of Route 101.
The Bowl officially opened on July 11, 1922 on the site of a natural amphitheater formerly known as the Daisy Dell.
At first, the Bowl was very close to its natural state, with only makeshift wooden benches for the audience, and eventually a simple awning over the stage. In 1926, a group known as the Allied Architects was contracted to regrade the Bowl, providing permanent seating and a shell. These improvements did provide increased capacity (the all-time record for attendance was set in 1936, when 26,410 people crowded into the Bowl to hear opera singer Lily Pons), but were otherwise disappointing, as the regrading noticeably degraded the natural acoustics, and the original shell was deemed acoustically unsatisfactory (as well as visually unfashionable, with its murals of sailing ships).
For the 1927 season, Lloyd Wright built a pyramidal shell, with a vaguely Southwestern look, out of left-over lumber from a production of Robin Hood. This was generally regarded as the best shell the Bowl ever had from an acoustic standpoint; unfortunately, its appearance was deemed too avant-garde, and it was demolished at the end of the season. It did, however, get Wright a second chance, this time with the stipulation that the shell was to have an arch shape.
For the 1928 season, Wright built a fiberglass shell in the shape of concentric 120-degree arches, with movable panels inside that could be used to tune the acoustics. It was designed to be easily dismantled and stored between concert seasons; apparently for political reasons this was not done, and it did not survive the winter.
For the 1929 season, the Allied Architects built the shell that stood until 2003, using a transite skin over a metal frame. Its acoustics, though not nearly as good as those of the Lloyd Wright shells, were deemed satisfactory at first, and its clean lines and white, almost-semicircular arches were copied for music shells elsewhere. As the acoustics deteriorated, various measures were used to mitigate the problems, starting with an inner shell made from large cardboard tubes (of the sort used as forms for round concrete pillars) in the 1970s, which were replaced in the early 1980s by large fiberglass spheres (both designed by Frank Gehry) that remained until 2003. These dampened out the unfavorable acoustics, but required massive use of electronic amplification to reach the full audience, particularly since the background noise level had risen sharply since the 1920s. The appearance underwent other, purely visual, changes as well, including the addition of a broad outer arch (forming a proscenium) where it had once had only a narrow rim and the reflecting pool in front of the stage that lasted from 1953 till 1972. Sculptor George Stanley designed the Muse Fountain. He had previously done the Oscar statuette.
Shortly after the end of the 2003 summer season the 1929 shell was replaced with a new, somewhat larger, acoustically approved shell, which had its debut in the 2004 summer season. Preservationists fiercely opposed the demolition for many years, citing the shell’s storied history. However, even when it was built, the 1929 shell was (at least acoustically) only the third-best shell in the Bowl’s history, behind its two immediate predecessors. By the late 1970s, the Hollywood Bowl became an acoustic liability because of continued hardening of its transite skin. The new shell incorporates design elements of not only the 1929 shell, but of both the Lloyd Wright shells. During the 2004 summer season, the sound steadily improved, as engineers learned to work with its live acoustics.
The 2004 shell incorporates the prominent front arch of the 1926 shell, the broad profile of the 1928 shell, and the unadorned white finish (and most of the general lines) of the 1929 shell. In addition, the ring-shaped structure hung within the shell, supporting lights and acoustic clouds, echoes a somewhat similar structure hung within the 1927 shell. During the 2004 season, because the back wall was not yet finished, a white curtain was hung at the back; beginning with the 2005 season, the curtain was removed to reveal a finished back wall. The architectural concept for the shell was developed by the Los Angeles based architectural practice Hodgetts and Fung, with the structural concept developed by the local office of Arup.
At the same time the new shell was being constructed the bowl received four new video screens and towers. During most concerts, three remotely-operated cameras in the shell, and a fourth, manually-operated camera among the box seats, provide the audience with close-up views of the musicians.
On 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.
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.
Figures that have appeared at the Bowl throughout the years include President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mickey Rooney & Edward G. Robinson, as well as such “teams” as Fonteyn and Nureyev, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Simon and Garfunkel & Abbott and Costello.
Mikhail Baryshnikov has danced there, as has Fred Astaire.
The Hollywood Bowl was the site for American singer-actress Cher’s final two concerts of her Living Proof: The Farewell Tour on April 29 and April 30, 2005.
Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood, Kylie Minogue, 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.
The Hollywood Bowl has provided a showcase for the world’s greatest musicians. Bernstein, Walter, Monteux, Mauceri, Koussevitzky, Stokowski, Karajan, Klemperer, and Leinsdorf, as well as Mehta, Giulini, Rattle, and Salonen are just a few of the conductors who have led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in summertime concerts over the past seven decades. Jerry Hadley, Philip Glass, Itzhak Perlman, Gregor Piatigorsky, Arthur Rubinstein, Alfred Brendel, Vladimir Horowitz, Andre Watts, Horacio Gutierrez, Jessye Norman, Plácido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Isaac Stern, Kathleen Battle, Jane Eaglen, Marilyn Horne, Alexander Frey, Jennifer Larmore, Sylvia McNair, Andrea Bocelli, Gil Shaham, Stephen Hough, Luciano Pavarotti — and other distinguished vocal and instrumental soloists too numerous to mention — represent the illustrious talent that has graced the stage. 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.
In September 1950, California’s official state centennial show, The California Story, ran for five performances. The production, directed by Vladimir Rosing, was immense. A chorus of 200 and hundreds of actors were employed. The shell of the bowl was removed, the stage was enlarged, and the action was expanded to include the surrounding hillsides. Lionel Barrymore provided the dramatic narration.
The Beatles performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965, which resulted in the live album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl that was released in 1977.
The Playboy Jazz Festival has taken place at the Hollywood Bowl each year since 1979.
The first public performances by the newly formed Hollywood Bowl Orchestra were for Independence Day concerts on July 2–4, 1991 conducted by the orchestra’s new conductor John Mauceri and Bruce Hubbard (baritone) as soloist. The program included works by Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, George Gershwin & Jerome Kern, among others.
The Hollywood Bowl was the site for what turned out to be the British progressive rock band Genesis’ final ever concerts and the last two concerts of their Turn it On Again : The Tour on October 12 and 13, 2007] Lead singer Phil Collins at the last show said “there was nothing else planned for Genesis after this show” (eventually Phil Collins retired from the music industry in 2011).
The jam band Phish performed at the Bowl for the first time in August 2011. The show sold out in less than an hour.
Blink 182 became a part of a long list of legends by headlining the 2011 Hollywood Bowl.