February 26, 2016

The Hearst Greek Theater performances

The William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre, known in the San Francisco Bay Area simply as the Greek Theatre, is an 8,500-seat amphitheater owned and operated by the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California, USA. It officially opened on September 24, 1903 with a student production of The Birds by Aristophanes.

The Hearst Greek Theater was built on the site of a rough outdoor bowl already in use as an amphitheater since 1894 known as "Ben Weed's Amphitheater". The project was championed by University of California president Benjamin Ide Wheeler and was the first University building designed by John Galen Howard. Its construction was financed by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, after whom it was named. The design of the theater is based directly on the ancient Greek theater of Epidaurus.             

photo by Sanfranman59

The Greek Theatre hosts The Berkeley Jazz Festival, pop, rock, and world music concerts, UC Berkeley graduation ceremonies, occasional addresses by noted speakers, and other events. Past speakers have been William Randolph Hearst (of course), President Theodore Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama.

The Greek is my very favorite venue for concerts and performances. The acoustics of the theater are astounding! As there are no walls to bounce the sound around and make it reverberate with extraneous echoes, it is pristine. The down sides of the venue is that it is constructed completely of concrete, including the seating. Oy vey! It is of prime importance that a cushion of some kind MUST be brought along to comfortably enjoy the performance. And on a warm autumn night it is absolutely gorgeous; on a not-so-warm night it is absolutely freezing!   

My first experience with the Greek was a performance of Aida by Verdi. It was in 1958, a terrific year for me (link below), just after the theater had been remodeled. The production was stunning as it featured a VERY young Leontyne Price. She was just starting out on her career; she was young and gorgeous with the voice of an angel combined with that of a valkyrie. She was the ultimate Aida which no one could possibly replace. The production also featured real, live elephants during the Triumphal March; it was quite a spectacle!   

photographer unknown

Since 1958 I have had the great fortune to have seen many performers/performances there: Paul Simon (link below), Talking Heads, King Crimson (link below), Laurie Anderson, Bobby McFerrin, B-52s, Harry Belafonte, Neil Diamond and the list goes on and on.   

I can hardly wait for the next event!

William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre       
2001 Gayley Rd   
Berkeley, California 94720          
(510) 642-9988      

Net links:
Greek Theater website                       
Harry Belefonte ~ At the Greek Theater               
Van Cliburn & Sputnik ~ 1958          
Neil Diamond ~ Love at the Greek            
Leontyne Price ~ A Christmas Offering            
Paul Simon at the Greek Theater                   

Styrous® ~ Friday, February 26, 2016

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