pherank

San Diego Opera Closes At End Of This Season

26 posts in this topic

"In a surprising move, the company announced Wednesday that it will cease operations at the end of the current season, citing financial reasons including a tough fundraising environment and weak ticket sales."

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-san-diego-opera-closing-20140319,0,1123067.story#axzz2wTLekBJD

Having gone a couple of times myself this year, I can say that the productions have been of good quality, but the audience is aging. As my father pointed out, the opera also employs a good many of the SD Symphony musicians in-between Symphony engagements. So this will have an unfortunate ripple effect in the local arts community. Very sad.

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Yes, very sad, indeed!

Are all of these entities privately funded?

-d-

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Yes, very sad, indeed!

Are all of these entities privately funded?

-d-

In this country, yes. The list of large donors is always advertised on the pamphlets handed out at the opera (and it's a long list of people, many of whom are prominent in SD/Southern California). I found this interesting website that charts donations for U.S. non-profit organizations:

http://www.milliondollarlist.org/recipients/san-diego-opera

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Wow! That is interesting that the SD Opera was basically supported by one, big donation from one person at one time.

That is of course hard to beat.

So, so too bad.

-d-

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Wow! That is interesting that the SD Opera was basically supported by one, big donation from one person at one time.

That is of course hard to beat.

So, so too bad.

-d-

The website is only listing the one million and above grants from donors, but we can imagine that in years when there are no large grants, these art companies really rely on grass root efforts - and those are falling way short these days.

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Ah, yes - of course! Sorry for my assumption!

Are the "smaller" donations falling short due to everyone - across-the-board - having less and being therefore less able to share, do you think?

-d-

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Ah, yes - of course! Sorry for my assumption!

Are the "smaller" donations falling short due to everyone - across-the-board - having less and being therefore less able to share, do you think?

-d-

Polls in the U.S. have shown for some time that the citizenry are convinced that the economy is doing poorly (even when in fact - by the usual indicators - it isn't doing all that badly. The economy continues to grow, and unemployment isn't nearly as bad in the US as in most other nations). But "consumer confidence" is definitely low. I think a great many people in the US feel like they are barely keeping their heads above water, or they aren't. I suppose I am in the same boat, but I have to think that the real issue is how people feel about their lives - if you like what you are doing in life, it doesn't matter nearly as much that you are not wealthy.

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There is, as you might imagine, quite a lot of research done about charitable donations to cultural organizations. Alas, we are in a tough period right now. The generation that grew up listening to the Met Opera broadcasts, and went on to found local arts agencies and organizations in their home communities are ageing out of the donor and audience pool. The current cohort is likely to give more to social service organizations than to the arts at this point, and is less interested in giving large, relatively unencumbered gifts. We're also losing the big, uncompensated volunteer groups, especially ones run primarily by women, who are now working for pay in much larger numbers than previously.

I'm not sure if this is just a local (Seattle) phenomenon, or perhaps something that's replicated in other communities, but the big social/fundraising organization in Seattle (PONCHO) closed a couple years ago, after years of very generous giving. They were founded in the 1960s (a huge period for growth in local cultural groups), and over time created an extremely successful auction program. They were very careful about their grant program -- if you managed to get PONCHO money it was a stamp of approval for all kinds of other organizations. But in the last 10 years or so they lost several of their long-time organizers, they had to compete with myriad other auction-format fundraisers, and they finally decided to close up shop. It's been a big paradigm shift here.

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Very interesting how different countries/cultures go about funding things which are important to them. (especially "fringe" things, such as youth activities and "cultural" ones)

There are countries, notably some of the Scandinavian ones, where reportedly most citizens would disapprove of a lowering of taxes, as they are quite aware of all the things which taxes fund and make possible in their communities.

That does not appear to be the case everywhere.

-d-

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That does not appear to be the case everywhere.

-d-

No kidding.

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Youtube happens to have a preview video of one of the operas that I saw this past season: Donizetti's Elixir of Love. This gives some sense of what is going away (and all the people being impacted)...

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-sigh-

There is no hope that San Diego Opera will somehow continue, is there? Once something like this is gone, it is really really hard to get it started again.

As the quote of the beginning of the video said, "dying is easy...."

I hope that the symphony is not going to be the next one. :( And then the museums.... and .... :( :(

-d-

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-sigh-

There is no hope that San Diego Opera will somehow continue, is there? Once something like this is gone, it is really really hard to get it started again.

As the quote of the beginning of the video said, "dying is easy...."

I hope that the symphony is not going to be the next one. sad.png And then the museums.... and .... sad.pngsad.png

-d-

I think the first worry is the impact on the musicians (most of whom are part of the SD Symphony) - will the reduction in income necessitate leaving the area? Or are there simply too few places to fine equivalent work?

As for a rescue of the Opera, I think that will require the participation of the under 30 crowd. And that's not happening.

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I went to a performance of Opera Colorado last week, which performs in the same Caulkins Opera House as the Colorado Ballet, and was struck at the different look and feel of the audiences. The Ballet always attracts lots and lots of little girls with their parents and friends, even at the evening performances. I saw barely a handful of children at the Opera. Are there scads of kids who dream of being opera stars? I'm not seeing them. Only a few of those little girls will take classes with serious professional ambitions, but in the meantime their parents are being introduced to ballet and that should help future audiences.

Both attract a substantial older audience, but the Opera audience seemed to be dressed much more formally (big night at a classy restaurant first, perhaps?). The Opera is only doing two programs a year (Rigoletto this month and Carmen in May), four performances each. The Ballet is doing four programs this year, typically for two weekends, although Nutcracker is solid programming for a month and they're adding a fifth program next year (a weekend of Dracula).

The Opera performance did start with a before-the-curtain announcement that they will do two programs each of the next two years, including Don Giovanni, Magic Flute, Aida, and the Scarlet Letter. Opera has never cultivated anything comparable to the Nutcracker as a money machine, which is yet another difference. (Do we have Balanchine to thank for pushing that in the 50s?)

I see plenty of efforts at both the ballet and opera to cultivate "young patrons" groups here and elsewhere. I have no idea if it's working, but it seems essential to long-term survival. Even art museums are nervous about the declining interest among younger patrons, as a NY Times article discussed recently:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/20/arts/artsspecial/wooing-a-new-generation-of-museum-patrons.html?src=me&_r=0

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Thank you for posting this awful news, pherank. It's not impossible for the company to come back. The 1% are experiencing the economic renewal you mention even if everyone else is mostly left out and there are plenty of folk in San Diego who belong to that happy minority. (Y'all have fun making that drive to L.A. to catch an opera.) It's also possible that a culturally-minded local government could do something. SD isn't exactly known for such things, true, but I can envision a scenario where local bigwigs get together around, say, the building of a state-of-the-art performing arts venue, which SD currently lacks.

Of course, the habit of giving is built over time. And, as sandik notes in her post, the continuing economic malaise (which is very real for ordinary people), and cultural changes in who is giving to what also make a difference.

I hope at least something will be done for the orchestra in the immediate future.

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Audience Slings Boos at Opera Director

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/apr/07/tp-audience-slings-boos-at-opera-director/

...He finally left the stage so the real opera could begin, but not even Massenet could top this tragedy of a passionate, gifted man who once was the very embodiment of artistic success and community service. Now, through his own ego, miscalculations — did he really believe the board would just rubber stamp a decision affecting so many and made by so few? — and intransigence, he is seen as the exact opposite.

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Hi -- I am new here but I just thought I'd chime in -- I live in New Mexico and the Symphony and Chorus here went belly up last year -- the Chorus was mostly volunteer but still a great loss -- I wish there was something that could be done to generate interest -- And look what recently happened at La Scala -- I am told that was due to poor management and in the end they managed to pull together and save both the opera and ballet but here there just does not seem to be the will --

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Welcome to the forum and the board,sparklingtonic. Chime in any time. smile.png Yes, in the end the community will has to be there. So sorry to hear about your local symphony and chorus.

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Not so suprisingly, there is now an effort underway to resurrect things before it's essentially too late:

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2014/apr/16/plan-works-save-san-diego-opera/

...But at least two board members want to postpone and possibly avert the closing of the 49-year-old institution.

Carol Lazier, a board member who donated $1 million to the company earlier this month, is now chairing a committee formed to look for ways to save the opera.

Lazier said her donation has gone to pay for Opera America consultant Kevin Smith, who led the Minnesota Opera for 30 years and is credited with more than doubling attendance. Smith is taking a close look at the San Diego Opera's finances. Details about the findings along with a reorganization plan are set to be announced at Thursday's board meeting.

This will be of interest, I think, to many theatre companies, wanting to know how they can stay relevant and financially solvent in today's climate.

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I hope Smith is worth the dough.

A local press report with more details. It looks as if the idea is to carry on with a meaner, leaner company.Looks like the Campbells got canned, as it were.

On April 1, the board agreed to extend the company’s lifeline until April 29.According to company records, as of May 1, San Diego Opera will have contractual obligations to creditors of more than $8.5 million. Finding a way to pay off debts and find new donors will be the board’s chief challenge in the coming weeks.

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Looks like the Campbells got canned, as it were.

Ouch!

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The local San Diego newspaper has reported on the tempestuous meetings around the closing of the opera. This article names some names, but it's very difficult to tell exactly what people's positions are:

The board was gathered Thursday at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine to hear the proposal from Opera America. Two and a half hours after the meeting began Thursday afternoon, a visibly upset board president Cohn stormed out, refusing to confirm or deny whether she has resigned or is still affiliated with the opera. Moments later, Ian Campbell and his ex-wife, Ann Spira Campbell, deputy general director, also left without addressing reporters. Faye Wilson, a board member and former president, angrily shouted as she left the meeting, “Those idiots!” And at least eight other board members followed. Shouting could be heard from inside the room after they left and new board member Zandra Rhodes, a British fashion designer who has created sets and costumes for San Diego Opera, later described the atmosphere in the room as “chaos.”

MEANWHILE -

Kevin Smith, a field consultant with Opera America, said the board was “very open-minded and receptive to my proposal,” adding “there’s no doubt in my mind that everyone in that room, including Ian and Ann, did what they could in the best interest of the opera company.”

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I think the main problem - everywhere - is that not everything which is truly worthwhile can "pull its own weight"; this goes for public transportation, babies, science research, education, open wild spaces, theatre and the arts. (and probably a bunch of other things, but I wanted to try to be pithy)

We as humans in societies have to be careful that we realise and accept this and then make amends - we have to be willing to pay for things, even if we do not get immediate, monetary "rewards".

-sigh-

-d-

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I think the main problem - everywhere - is that not everything which is truly worthwhile can "pull its own weight"; this goes for public transportation, babies, science research, education, open wild spaces, theatre and the arts. (and probably a bunch of other things, but I wanted to try to be pithy)

We just lost a ballot measure to fund public transportation here, and as a result are looking at a bunch of cuts to bus service, so your post is very au courant for my little part of the world.

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