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Music and Drama
Hasty reading of annals makes some people gather the mistaken impression that San Francisco's dramatic and musical history had its genesis when miners threw gold nuggets at the feet of Lotta Crabtree. But it has been pointed out by one musical critic that the Franciscan padres were chanting Gregorian measures in the Mission Dolores when the battles of Lexington and Concord were being fought, and that the Indians were intoning hymns and staging miracle-plays for their sun-god in California before the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.
San Francisco not only discovered the gold in the soprano of Luisa Tetrazzini at the old Tivoli Opera House, but it has figured in the triumphs of many luminaries of the musical and dramatic stage - from Adelina Patti and Tamagno to Mary Garden and Galli-Curci - from Edwin Booth and Charles Kean to John Drew and Henry Miller. Celebrities braved the discomforts of trips across the continent from the earliest days because of the city's repute as a place where the people were not only responsive but arrived at their own independent judgments.
Ysaye, Kreisler and Mischa Elman have esteemed the acclaim of audiences here as much as Ole Bull and Wieniawski did in earlier days.
Since the conversion of the Tivoli into a motion picture theatre, and pending the construction of the Memorial Opera House opposite the City Hall, the city hears most of its opera in the Civic Auditorium. Performances of the San Francisco Opera Company, with its local orchestra and chorus supporting international stars, and of visiting troupes from New York and Chicago in this auditorium provide two spectacles one on the stage and the other in the assemblage itself. The auditorium seats 10,000 persons. To be present when a prima donna awes this audience into silence by her tones, and then to hear a triumphant roar of approval rend the silence, is an unforgettable adventure of the spirit.
The Symphony Orchestra of San Francisco is one of the ranking musical bodies of the United States. No better symphonic music is played anywhere. The concerts of this orchestra fill the Civic Auditorium to overflowing. Close to fifty per cent of the audiences are people attracted from surrounding cities.
The Chamber Music Society has toured the United States and added to the musical prestige of the city.
The Concerts of the Bohemian Club, the Pacific Musical Society, the San Francisco Musical Society and the Loring Club have definite places in the musical life of the community.
Organ literature attracts many people to the recitals at the Civic Auditorium. The pipe organ here was built for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. It was subsequently rebuilt and presented to the city.
The theatres of San Francisco that were famous in an earlier era are now names packed away in the lavender of remembrance. Today the city has new theatres of imposing appearance and large seating capacity. The old stage personalities, however, troop through the writings of contemporary theatrical critics like deified shades.
The first managers of the old California theatre were Lawrence Barrett and John McCullough. The foremost actors were drawn to the city, including Charles Kean and Edwin Forrest. The Bush street theatre was conducted for fifteen years by M. B. Leavitt. It is difficult to be brief with the list of famous names. David Belasco, born in San Francisco, was stage manager of the Baldwin before he made theatrical history in New York. David Warfield made his first professional appearance at the old Wigwam. William A. Brady began his theatrical career in the city, and so did Al Hayman. Holbrook Blinn was a boy star in amateur theatricals.
At the Alcazar, San Francisco's stock house, many familiar players made their debuts, including Blanche Bates, Frank Bacon, Frances Starr, Bert Lytell and Evelyn Vaughn.
The Orpheum theatre of San Francisco is the mother house of the vaudeville circuit of that name, which supplies entertainment to cities throughout the United States and has overseas affiliations. The Orpheum developed from a music hall conducted by Gustav Walter and the first building on the present site in O'Farrell street, off Powell, was erected in 1887.
All-Year Music Out of Doors
The Bandstand and the elm-shaded Concourse in Golden Gate Park