San Diego Opera struggling to stay afloat
How much money will it take to keep the San Diego Opera going? The opera's General Director Ian Campbell, along with the opera board last month, motioned to shut the opera down – catching everyone by surprise. Fans crowded the Civic Center Plaza in a buzz of anticipation last Saturday night, the opening night for “Don Quixote”, slated to be the opera's last production – it's swan song in the opera's 49-year-run.
“For us to go through to our 50th anniversary, we need, at a minimum, $10 million,” said Karen Cohn, Board President of the San Diego Opera.
But as Campbell learned that night, the choice to close the opera at the end of the month has stirred anger and outrage. Campbell was booed and heckled by members of the audience as he tried to give a serious pre-performance speech. But his distracters were quickly drowned out be opera fans who stood and applauded.
However, there is no laughter from the employees, and some dissident board members, who say the opera does not have to shut down. Board member Carol Lazier is pledging to give the opera a gift of $1 million so the organization can look at new business strategies to come up with a new plan for community-based fund-raising and programming. In a statement, Lazier says:
“I gave the money to encourage us to rescind the dissolution vote as soon as possible.”
Closing the opera will put about 400 people out of work. Those who are crusading for its survival say the opera board must start looking at fundamental changes and that might require replacing General Director Campbell.
“And we're hopeful, we're very hopeful that the board will take another look at this and say 'well, wait a minute… Let's slow down, let's see what we need to do to change direction,'” said Costume Shop steward Ginny McClure.
A group called the White Knight Committee has started a grass-roots campaign to save the opera. There's an online petition asking board members to reconsider their vote. Under his contract with the opera board, Campbell will continue to draw compensation until his contract ends in 2017 – earning about $500,000 a year. Most of the rest of the employees will receive three week's pay for severance. Will the opera survive? Stay tuned, for KUSI will air Wednesday and Thursday a special report this week on the issue.