For most of the Hollywood Bowl audience, eating their picnic dinners on benches as far back as 600 feet, the action down on the stage could be in Wyoming. Unless the concert-goers have brought binoculars, the moon can seem closer and more interesting to look at when listening to classical music.
Now, the Bowl wants to change all that with its first ballet production in several years. Following what's become standard practice at rock concerts and political conventions, the Bowl will use two video screens to provide close-ups and action shots of the dancers.
A Los Angeles performing venue for 73 years, the Bowl is one of the world's largest natural amphitheaters, seating 18,000 in boxes and benches that curve up a hill in the Cahuenga Pass.
Paying as little as $1 to $3, "benchers," as those who sit in the back are called, will see video enlarged dancers such as Eleonora Cassano and Julio Bocca performing excerpts from "Swan Lake" and "Romeo and Juliet." The two will be followed by Evelyn Cisneros, Anthony Randazzo, Cynthia Harvey and Judith Fugate in excerpts from George Balanchine's Gershwin ballet "Who Cares?" The ballet show "Magic and Music of Dance" will run Friday through Sunday as part of the Bowl's summer festival.
When the Bowl decided to present the ballet performance, bringing in video screens seemed logical, said Bowl Manager Anne Parsons. "You amplify the sound so the audience can hear it," she said. "We're amplifying the visuals. In a place like this it makes a lot of sense. It's a visual world we live in."
The two screens will be hung between the shell's proscenium and light and sound towers, stage right and left. Two cameras will be off stage and two more in the audience, although they won't obstruct the audience's view, according to Parsons.
B.C.C. Video, the company providing the video, is better known for its work with touring rock groups such as Genesis and Guns N' Roses/Metallica. This is the first time the company has video enhanced ballet, according to Danny O'Bryen, who co-owns the video company. The camerawork will have to be "more flowing than a rock show," he said.
"In a ballet you do a lot of dissolves from one picture to another," O'Bryen said. "In rock you do quick cuts."
The Bowl management opted for large video screens alongside the stage, instead of using smaller screens placed in the audience, "so that the audience's eye wouldn't be taken off the stage," said Paul Geller, Bowl production manager and associate lighting designer. "Now, you can look at the stage and glance over to the sides and see the enhanced image. It will be a little more pleasing to the eye."
Large productions are part of the Bowl's history, said John Mauceri, conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, who selected this weekend's program. "Many people have forgotten that the Bowl has historically been the site of pageants."
Asked if Tchaikovsky or Balanchine would approve of the use of video enhancers, Mauceri said he thinks so.
"I don't think anything is particularly gained in retaining traditions that are not applicable to our time," Mauceri said. "Screens are a totally logical technique to use. One of the sadder aspects of classical music in general is its unwillingness to bring new techniques to music. It's a fairly modest use of screens, not a rocket show at all."
The Bowl program also will include a preview of the video, "Stand and Be Proud," the official anthem of RLA (formerly Rebuild L.A.).
* \o7 Performances Friday and Saturday are at 8:30 p\f7 .\o7 m. Sunday performances are at 7:30 p.m. Information: (213) 480-3232.\f7