Saving the San Diego Opera: Final curtain hasn’t fallen just yet
The drama and the backstage theatrics, not over quite yet. As opera supporters gathered to listen to some ideas to infuse the opera with new life, a major shake-up was taking place among the people who voted last month to let it go, they said “with dignity.”
It may not be the last aria or the last curtain after all. In a startling turn of events, the opera – which was slated to close after its 49th season – may have another chance to regroup. After a contentious meeting of the opera board, President Karen Cohn reportedly resigned. Another board member, Carol Lazier, is taking her place. It's an encouraging sign for those who want to save the opera in San Diego.
“I think having Carol at the head of the board signals that there is a positive effort on the part of the board to move forward,”said opera education director Nicholas Reveles.
Other board members also left the meeting, signaling the division that has split the board into opposing factions. Some support the opera's general director Ian Campbell, who says the opera does not have the money to mount a 2015 season.
“The board is very responsible and so is the financial staff,” said Campbell on KUSI's “Good Morning San Diego” previously. And looking forward, we don't see the money to support next season and we're therefore not going to take subscription money that we can't give back.”
On the other side: those who believe the opera company can be retooled and revived with a change in programming and a change in leadership.
“With funds coming in around new leadership, I think you put those two things together and you absolutely can move forward and not end up closing on April 29th,” said Chris Stephens, a 15 year member of the chorus.
While the opera board was in upheaval, there was no discord. Supporters of the opera held a Town Hall meeting at the Civic Center Concourse to listen to speakers.
“A number of opera companies have really triumphed over these challenges,” said Marc Scorca, President of Opera America – an umbrella organization for more than 100 opera companies.
Opera professionals who say other companies were able to bounce back.
“Innovation is what is needed and change,” stated one opera supporter outside the Town Hall meeting.
What is not clear yet is whether general director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife Ann will resign and how much they will be paid. Their current compensation comes to almost $800,000 a year. Some fans and supporters say Campbell must go for the company to move forward.
“If you've given up and don't have the will to carry this company on, you need to step down,” said Carlos Cota, business agent for the union representing stage hands. “And if he's not willing to step down, than I believe (Ian) needs to be fired.”
“We need some one like Ian Campbell was 30 years ago,” stated opera supporter Erica Miner. “He came in and he retooled the opera. We need somebody with that vision for the 21st Century now… to come in and rejuvenate.”
“Everything has to change,” professed Reveles.
Several weeks ago, the new Board President Carol Lanzier had pledged to donate $1 million on the condition that the opera find a new direction. As of now, the opera company is still slated to close on April 29th, but many observers say they are more hopeful than ever that the reconfigured board will choose to reverse that decision.