Crowd Funding, Union Pay Cuts Help Save San Diego Opera for 50th Season

Crowd Funding, Union Pay Cuts Help Save San Diego Opera for 50th Season

Back from the brink of death, the San Diego Opera has announced a 2015 season after reversal of a decision by the opera’s board to shut down the company just two months ago. 

Productions announced include La Boheme, as well as Don Giovanni and John Adams’ Nixon in China. In a show of fiscal conservatism, the opera is cutting costs, adjusting prices, and getting creative in fundraising while union members have agreed to pay cuts.

After the opera’s board voted in March to cease operations, San Diego Opera supporters voiced great dismay over the decision to close. At the final performance of the 2014 season, Don Quixote, attendees and supporters held a vigil to save the opera.

Shortly thereafter, a dramatic board meeting led to the replacement of the board President with Carol Lazier. Lazier donated $1 million towards the company in March of 2014. Opera America, a New York based advocacy group, presented a sharply reduced operating budget for the San Diego Opera in the midst of the opera board’s turmoil. Their plan would have reduced the budget from the previous plan of $15-17 million down to a modest $4.3 to 6.4 million.

Since then the board has set an operating budget at a reduced $10.5 million dollar plan, according to the L.A. Times. The San Diego Opera website lists over $2.1 million raised from crowd sourcing in addition to over $2.3 million raised from other sources.

The opera company has made adjustments to the plans for their 2015 season that will allow the show to go on. Wagner’s Tannhäuser had previously been scheduled for next year’s season, but was cut due to the high cost of production, according to KPBS. In addition the report stated, “Singers and other union members agreed to–or expressed a willingness to–take a 10 percent pay cut as long as similar cuts are taken throughout the company. Staff members are willing to take a 10 percent decrease in pay next year, an opera spokesman said.”

Production of John Adams’ Nixon in China will use sets from the Houston Grand Opera at no cost to the San Diego Opera, reported KPBS–a savings of $60,000.

Former General and Artistic Director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife Ann Campbell, former Deputy Director, were let go from the opera company during the course of reforms. Ian Campbell came under fire for his approximately $500,000 salary, the seventeenth-highest paid U.S. opera official according to a Union-Tribune report.

Still $6.5 million short of the $10.5 million goal for the budget, the opera continues the hard work of reforming and saving a long-time member of the San Diego arts community. Changes to ticket prices, making attendance more accessible, and increased number of higher priced seats offered is also planned to contribute to a successful 2015 opera season in San Diego.


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