On the south side of Balboa Park, at the edge of a canyon next to the San Diego Air and Space Museum, you’ll find this rusting sign. It remains hopeful above the shuttered ticket windows of the Starlight Bowl, once home to the San Diego Civic Light Opera. The sign announces a 65th season that never came.
A couple years ago the San Diego Civic Light Opera went bankrupt. Which is a shame. For a long happy time during the warm summer months the outdoor theatre featured musicals and other popular productions. I remember watching the Pirates of Penzance and the Taming of the Shrew here when I was very young. The coolest thing I remember was how the actors would all freeze and shows would be suspended for several seconds when noisy, low-flying airplanes approaching Lindbergh field passed directly overhead.
I walked around to one side for a view of the beloved Starlight Bowl and held my camera above a chain link fence for the above photo. The outdoor stage now has an audience of weeds.
Here comes a batch of photos taken Friday afternoon and early evening at 2013 December Nights. If you haven’t been to Balboa Park’s massive holiday festival, you’re really missing out. Hundreds of thousands of people turn out during the two day event, enjoying colorful lights, decorations, music, Christmas carols, food, entertainment, and just a whole bunch of fun. Every corner of the park is crammed with stuff to see and do. And it seems half of San Diego comes out to experience it all!
Some might recall that December Nights was once called Christmas on the Prado. Fortunately, the event is as joyful, bright, inspirational and heart-warming as ever. And the crowds seem bigger than ever!
Santa Claus and his magical reindeer were recently seen flying through Balboa Park. A photo was snapped as he sped from the central plaza toward the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. There he is waving at happy children and thrilled park visitors!
A second photo was snapped as the reindeer lifted off into the blue San Diego sky, pulling Santa’s sleigh up and away back toward the North Pole!
One cool feature of Balboa Park is the profusion of street performers. I got a fast pic of this magician setting up on El Prado in front of the reflecting pool. That’s the Botanical Building in the background–one of the largest wood lath structures in the world!
While I didn’t see this sleeveless magician perform last Sunday, I did savor the music of a nearby harp player and listened to a guy playing a funky didgeridoo!
UPDATE! Here’s a pic from a performance, taken on a later day:
This Sunday afternoon’s free concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion featured two of this year’s Spreckels Organ Scholarship winners! The scholarship is provided by the Spreckels Organ Society to promising young organists. Both young ladies who played were terrific!
This photo was taken as I entered the pavilion. Lots of folks were out and about on this beautiful sunny day, and a fair number of people were enjoying the music on the benches.
Here’s a pic of Trinity Schulz speaking to the crowd. She then went on to play “How Firm a Foundation”.
This pic shows Suzy Webster. She played a fun “Chopsticks for Organ”, and then Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, by J.S. Bach.
This small monument to William Shakespeare is located just across from the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, not far from the Old Globe Theatre. The San Diego Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden can be glimpsed in the background, beyond a fence.
The words beneath the Bard’s sculpted head and pen compose the memorable conclusion to his Sonnet 18:
“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
These nearby tables in Balboa Parks’s theatre complex are a fine place to find life in the written word.
You’re looking at the Old Globe Theatre. It’s modeled after the original Globe Theatre in London, where Shakespeare enjoyed watching many plays that he’d penned. This beloved building is a popular San Diego landmark.
The Tudor-style building was originally constructed in 1935, and was first used for the California Pacific International Exposition to stage Shakespearean plays. In 1978 it was burned down by an arsonist. A nearby festival stage was quickly erected so that performances could go on, then the Old Globe was rebuilt with the generous help of many San Diegans.
Since 1949, The Old Globe has hosted an annual summer Shakespeare Festival. During the summer and winter, the theatre puts on about 15 different shows including modern plays, comedies, musicals and classics.
Many productions that originated here have gone on to Broadway. These shows have won nine Tony Awards and almost 60 nominations!