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Everybody who is anybody – or nobody – has heard of the Hollywood Bowl. It’s obviously in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles but what IS it?  Well, it’s an amphitheatre that seats 17,000. It is outdoors (it poured with rain during a Judy Garland concert and not a soul left). The idea of the Bowl evolved from an outdoor community theatre production of Julius Caesar in 1916, in Beachwood Canyon, to commemorate the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death.

A permanent venue opened in 1922 and since then it has been the premier destination for live music in Southern California. Frank Gehry was involved in an architectural re-vamp in the 1970s. Its iconic  concentric-arched band shell, which was re-done in 2000 by Hodgetts & Fung (see above) has hosted The Beatles, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald , Yo-Yo Ma, Zubin Mehta, Simon Rattle… everybody of note.

Gustavo Dudamel, as Musical Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is overseer but the Bowl has its own orchestra, led by conductor Thomas Wilkins. He, Wilkins, absolutely triumphed at the opening concert of the Bowl’s 2024 season, on 23rd June 2024. It was a centenary homage to Henry Mancini and the 17,000-person amphitheatre was packed out.  Girlahead, as guest of one of Henry Mancini’s daughters, Monica Mancini, shared a four-seat box with hotelier and man-about-the-world David Stein, plus a local lawyer, and Sean Ferrer, just completing a new multi-theatre complex in Madrid (the world’s third most important cultural events city, after New York and London). When the in-box dinner was over, tables were removed and chairs turned through 180° so everyone could see the stage.

This was a celebration of such iconic tunes as Moon River. Clips were shown – on two gigantic screens flanking the band shell – from Moon River‘s movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Sean Ferrer is son of Audrey Hepburn, and Mel Ferrer), and from Pink Panther. Cartoons provided an entr’acte. Jazz supremo Cynthia Erivo twirled her six-inch fingernails as she sang and Dave Koz concertina-ed his body to match the shape of his saxophone. Youngsters from the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, YOLA, at one stage joined their Hollywood Bowl elders.  After a generously-long finale of superb pyrotechics bursting out radially from the band shell – see below – a final encore saw the orchestra and Monica Mancini joined on stage by her equally-brilliant husband, drummer Greg Field.

What an evening to remember, forever.