There are many “must see” attractions in Southern California and during summer, The Pageant of the Masters is definitely at top of the list for me. Now in its 84rd season, the world-renown stage show incredibly recreates and brings to life famous paintings with a group of live, motionless models and beautiful backdrops, set within huge picture frames on a massive outdoor stage, with a professional orchestra, live narration, and sophisticated lighting.
Located in a rustic Laguna Beach canyon, two blocks from the ocean, The Pageant is something that must be seen in person to fully appreciate its magnificence. The 90-minute nightly performances are highlighted by tableaux vivants or living pictures take the 2,000-seat Irvine Bowl Park stage in the corner of the festival grounds.
The “pictures” are remarkable re-creations of classical and contemporary masterpieces, “painted” with real people, painstakingly made-up with costumes and makeup. The painting are then filled with authentic backdrops and wrapped by giant picture frames. When the curtain is lifted, each 90-second-long picture is accompanied by an orchestra, with an original score; a live narration; and sophisticated lighting.
The theme of this year’s Pageant is “Partners.” The history of art is filled with stories of solitary artists abandoning society to pursue their creative expression. For the 2016 Pageant of the Masters, the organizers searched for stories of compelling collaborations that led to the creation of unforgettable artworks. This year’s performance is filled with provocative and passionate tales of some of art’s dynamic duos – artists and patrons, models, muses, even dance partners!
One of my favorite “paintings” of the show is “The Kiss on the Hand” by Gerolamo Induno. This 1877 oil masterpiece features a gentlemen kissing the hand of a lady in front of a horse and carriage. It Another impressive recreation is the 1903 “Outdoors in the Summer Winds” by Carl Larsson. This colorful oil mural depicts a group of people walking past a lush countryside of flowers, plants and trees. Like all the paintings in the show, it is practically impossible to tell that there are real people on stage.
The pageant is part of the larger Festival of Arts, a summer-long celebration of art and artists. This year’s festival showcases the works of 140 of Orange County’s best original painters, sculptors, ceramists, jewelers, and photographers. The festival also offers free daily art workshops for the whole family, live Jazz and blues, wine tastings, cooking classes, restaurants and more.
During my visit to Laguna Beach for the festival and Pageant of the Masters, I stayed at Hotel Laguna, an historic inn built in 1888 as the town’s first hotel. Located steps from the beach, the hotel is still welcoming guests to ocean-front luxury, with lots of old fashioned charm. Hotel Laguna is located at 425 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. For more information and reservations, call (949) 494-1151 or visit: www.hotellaguna.com
The Festival of Arts and the Pageant of the Masters runs through August 31. The address is 650 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, 92651. The festival is open daily, 10 am – 11:30 pm. Festival admission ranges from $5 – $12. Pageant of the Masters has performances nightly at 8:30 pm. For tickets and more information, call (949) 494-1145 or visit: www.foapom.com