Opening nights at the Hollywood Bowl have become virtual feats of production imagination in recent years. Almost any event would have difficulty topping last year's presentation of a spectacular new shell for the venue, but Friday night's performance made a gallant effort to provide a colorful kickoff for the summer season.
It began with a whimsical touch for everyone who has endured the sound of aircraft over a Bowl concert. Appearing silently in the twilight sky, the Goodyear blimp cruised overhead, its lighting panels displaying names of the inductees to the Bowl's sixth annual Hall of Fame -- Frank Sinatra, Joshua Bell and Trisha Yearwood -- accompanied by humorous commentary from actor Fred Willard.
Things moved quickly after that relatively placid opening. William Shatner's welcoming introduction was followed, appropriately, by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra's performance of Jerry Goldsmith's music for "Star Trek," conducted by John Mauceri.
Children from the L.A. Philharmonic School Partners Program then participated in the orchestra's rendering of the largo from Dvorak's New World Symphony, followed by an excerpt from David Raksin's "Laura."
Then it was on to the evening's honorees, beginning with a touching Sinatra tribute, including remarks from Quincy Jones and a few classic Sinatra-associated numbers sung by Steve Tyrell and Frank Sinatra Jr.
A warm acceptance of the award by Sinatra's children, Tina, Nancy and Frank Jr., was followed by a video of memorable moments from Sinatra's remarkable career.
Classical violinist Bell, after receiving his award from singer Josh Groban, affirmed his virtuosity with a spirited reading of Saint-Saens' Rondo Capriccioso.
Bell's engaging duet with Groban on "Mi Mancherai" underscored his capacity to reach a wide audience.
Yearwood, despite her high visibility as a country singer, celebrated her award (bestowed by Kris Kristofferson) by offering unexpected but warmly interpreted versions of "They All Laughed" and "Over the Rainbow" (along with her megahit, "How Do I Live").
The long, busy evening closed with a fireworks finale accompanied by the orchestra's performance of Elmer Bernstein's music from the film "Hawaii."