San Diego Opera needs $3 million from public donations by May deadline

Two groups with one objective in mind: finding the community support and the cash to keep the San Diego Opera performing. Monday was a good day for John Peters. As technical director for the San Diego Opera, he’s responsible for the opera’s sets and scenery, and he’s excited by a vote taken by the Opera Association to keep the company’s assets from being sold.

“Let’s say that the property is worth $3 million. I believe we probably have $3 or $4 million worth of equipment in (the Scenic Studio),” said Peters. “If you sell it on the open market, you’d be lucky to get pennies on a dollar.”

The opera’s elaborate sets are built in the Scenic Studio, occupying a 35,000 square foot site in Barrio Logan. In March, when the opera board voted to dissolve the company at the end of the season, the Scenic Studio – with its tools, machinery and previously constructed sets – would be one of the first assets to be auctioned off. The vote by the association put a halt to those plans.

“It was like you were in an opera!” Exclaimed association member Molly Whittaker. “It was dramatic.”

Whittaker was one of the members who attended the Monday morning meeting.

“People were standing up and saying things in their seats. People were very passionate.”

Anyone who’s donated more than $100 to the opera is eligible to vote in a special meeting. More than 200 association members showed up to ask the opera board to pull the plug on plans to close the opera down on May 19th.

“We feel like they should resend the vote to close, and we’re hoping that they can do so as soon as possible,” said chorister Chris Stephens.

That association meeting was followed by a second meeting of the San Diego Opera board – a quite different board now with just 26 members instead of over 50, and the new president at the helm. President Carol Lazier says the group is still looking at ways to fund a 2015 season and is hoping to raise several million dollars before the May 19th deadline.

“In some ways, this is still a work in progress,  because there’s still the shutdown vote,” said association member Tracy Cooke. 

One move that may bring back more donors: general director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife Ann were placed on leave last week as attorneys try to come to an agreement for their exit.

“I think they feel that way because Ian and Ann have kind of driven the company to where we’re at in this position, and they don’t want to reward them,” continued Stephens.

A new escrow account has been set up through the opera’s website with the guarantee that donors will get their money back if the account doesn’t hit a $1 million target, or if the opera decides not to produce a 2015 season. The fund-raising target is $3 million before the shutdown date of May 19th. Tax deductible donations can be made online at or you can call 619-533-7000.

Categories: KUSI