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San Diego Opera's fate still uncertain after final performance

April 14, 2014|By David Ng
  • Opera patrons gather at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego for the swan-song production of Massenet's "Don Quixote."
Opera patrons gather at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego for the swan-song… (David Ng / Los Angeles Times )

The Sunday matinee of "Don Quixote" officially was San Diego Opera's final staging after five decades in existence, but the fate of the company still hangs in the balance as supporters fight to keep the opera afloat.

The company's board of directors met Friday afternoon and voted to keep an April 29 deadline for the opera's closure. But the board also formed a special committee of six members to explore alternatives to shutting down.

In a letter sent to employees on Sunday, Karen Cohn, the board president, said the meeting included a discussion of a reduced 2015 season, but that the board concluded that such an option would be viable only if staff cuts were made and if "we could raise substantial bridge funding for the summer."

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The special committee will focus on the retention of consultants, Cohn said, but she didn't explain the purpose of those consultants.

Board members are scheduled to reconvene Thursday. Also that day, Save San Diego Opera, a group of opera supporters, is scheduled to hold a town hall panel discussion about alternatives to closing.

Earlier this month, Carol Lazier, a longtime board member, said she would give $1 million to help the company rework its mission and identity. 

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The company's annual roster of four full-scale productions "is clearly unsustainable in our community," Lazier said in a statement.

Ian Campbell, the company's longtime general and artistic director, has been criticized by opera supporters who believe that the decision to shutter the company was made in haste. He and other opera leaders have repeatedly cited financial difficulties stemming from weak ticket sales and falling donations as the reason for closing the organization.

Campbell was booed and heckled by audience members when he appeared on stage at the opening-night performance of "Don Quixote" on April 5, but he also received a standing ovation from a few dozen audience members.


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