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Around 200 San Diego Opera members — considered a good turnout — gave advisory votes this morning (April 28) to: (1) Fire Ian Campbell, general director, and Ann Spira Campbell, his ex-wife and second in command. They are both now on paid leave; (2) Dispose of no assets except in the ordinary course of business; (3) Rescind the board's vote of March 19 to disband the opera. The final vote on these recommendations will have to come from the board.

Clearly, the consensus of the members (those who have given at least $100) is to continue the operation of San Diego Opera.

The now-reduced board met after the members' meeting. The board discussed plans for the 2015 and 2016 seasons and how to cut costs.

There was also talk of the need for more fundraising, but according to my initial source, there was no figure given of how much money has been given in the past several days. (Last night I reported that there was at least one pledge of $100,000, but only if the Campbells are gone.)

One possible fundraising roadblock is that the insider group, including the Dow Divas, will not be giving, since they have resigned from the board. However, one source says this group has cut down its giving in the past couple of years. The board made no further moves on what to do about the Campbells.

I have picked up word that staff members are willing to take a 10 percent pay cut. However, I have received no confirmation of that.

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Comments

Don Bauder April 28, 2014 @ 3:13 p.m.

BOARD WILL HAVE TO VOTE ON 10% STAFF WAGE CUT. The 10% wage cut for staff will have to be voted upon by the board, according to an informant. I do understand that the staff appears willing to take the cut. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 28, 2014 @ 3:24 p.m.

HERE IS THE BOARD LINEUP AS OF TODAY (APRIL 28). Following the meeting of today (April 28), here is the San Diego Opera board lineup: The executive committee is made up of Carol Lazier, president; Courtney Ann Coyle, executive vice president; James A. Merritt M.D., vice president, finance, and Frances R. Marshall, secretary/parliamentarian. Members at large are Robert Horsman, community outreach; David Kleinfeld, governance chair, Joe Watkins, strategic planning chair, and Moses Urbano, nominating chair. Directors are Raffaella Belanich, David Brenner M.D., Teresa Fischlowitz, Cheryl Fisher, Nathan Fletcher, John Ippolito, Ann Irwin, Margaret Jackson, Lynda Kerr, Matthew Leivo, Alex Lukianov, Sarah Marsh-Rebelo, Anita Norton, Gloria Rasmussen, Zandra Rhodes, Linda Spuck, and Tony Thornley.

This board consists of 25 persons. The previous board of 58 was far, far too large to be effective. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 28, 2014 @ 5:22 p.m.

shirleyberan: On balance, I think today's developments constitute good news. But fundraising appears to be a big hurdle. San Diegans should empty their wallets. So should Orange County opera lovers who lost their company several years ago and come down to San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 28, 2014 @ 5:59 p.m.

Those recommendations are just common sense things to get the Opera back in business. It is so sad that Ian did so much for the Opera, and now leaves as a pariah. Pride goeth before the fall, and he has fallen so far already that it is hard to think of how much farther he can fall. Will any opera operation ever associate with him again?

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Don Bauder April 28, 2014 @ 8:26 p.m.

Visduh: Yes, it is extremely sad, and for me personal. Ian did a wonderful job resuscitating the opera when it was in deep trouble in the 1980s. Then he had two excellent decades of bringing high-quality opera to San Diego. His one mistake in those years was doing too much modern opera, but he admitted that mistake and did less of it.

However, as I have said so many times, he did not alter the repertoire, fundraising, marketing, and administration as the company, by his own admission, was going south. Worst of all, he thwarted attempts by several board members to fix what was wrong. He did not make cuts that were anywhere near sufficient, as several surviving opera companies are doing. And he kept paying himself and his spouse, then his ex-spouse, absurdly high salaries.

I still think the weight of evidence is that he had planned this dissolution for a couple of years. Without a doubt, he deliberately hid the extent of the problems from most of the board, the staff, and the public. To make sure that the staff didn't learn of the possible folding, he didn't even put a vote on the possible folding on the agenda. That is unforgivable.

Yes, it is a sad legacy he leaves. Ditto for Ann, his ex-wife, and board members in the insider clique such as Faye Wilson, Iris Strauss, and Karen Cohn. This was handled abysmally.

Thank goodness for those board members who will at least try to resuscitate the opera. I think rescuing the opera would have been much easier if the Campbells and others in the clique hadn't sprung this on the board so quickly. I keep wondering if this was deliberate -- "t'were well it were done quickly," to quote Shakespeare, to make a resurrection all the more difficult. I hope I am wrong on that. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 28, 2014 @ 9:58 p.m.

Springing on the board as it was done HAD to be deliberate. Any other organization that I can imagine would have agonized, temporized, and engaged in a drawn-out series of steps to bring it into balance, before a dissolution was ever considered. I keep wondering just how Campbell managed to manipulate those rich female patrons and board members to do his bidding. Now it comes across as if they still are committed to dissolution, even though they have left the board. Strange goings on, indeed.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2014 @ 10:19 p.m.

Visduh: Oh, I would bet that most people who left the board -- 33 at last count -- are committed to dissolution. Some may have been scared off by a lawyer's statement that if the board goes into the 2015 season knowing it doesn't have the funds, there could be a charge of fraud. That is a dubious statement, and I wonder if the lawyer who uttered it was essentially a hired gun for the Campbells or the clique surrounding them. Best, Don Bauder

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eastlaker April 29, 2014 @ 8:53 a.m.

I am still wondering about those who were encouraged to "remember" the opera in their wills, thinking that it would be a lasting legacy, with Mr. Campbell quite possibly thinking of the opera's final performance all the while.

Low.

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Don Bauder April 29, 2014 @ 9:18 a.m.

eastlaker: Yes, the opera had a program whereby people pledged assets. They continued to get the income from them, then when they died, the money went to the opera. I don't know how successful the program was. But the people who have not yet died have a real stake in whether the company lives or dies. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK April 29, 2014 @ 7:20 a.m.

seems to be more board members than actors.

looks like a group of do nothing hoity-toities

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Don Bauder April 29, 2014 @ 7:49 a.m.

Murphyjunk: Yes and no. The powerful and informed members of the old board did shell out plenty of money and in many cases, such as Faye Wilson, worked very hard for the opera, albeit making mistakes, such as permitting the Campbells to make outrageous salaries and fringes.

This is a problem the current, sharply-reduced board faces: many of those who resigned were among the most knowledgeable and generous board members. Best, Don Bauder

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eastlaker April 29, 2014 @ 12:47 p.m.

Some good news: when I looked at the SD Opera's website this morning, it showed that about $315,000 had been raised, so that nearly 1/3 of what is needed by May 19th has been sent in.

I have been reading in letters to the editor in the UT and other places that some are upset with adjustments that necessarily are being made to the season for 2015...but of course, you can 'never please all of the people all of the time'.

There are the occasional complaints that the Civic Theatre isn't that welcoming, that it has a "dead spot"...I wish that the plaza area could be made a bit more appealing, but that isn't as important as having a functional opera. The old parking garage (the one with circular ramps) might be due for a revamp of sorts, but that isn't the biggest problem around.

I guess my point is that things can always be improved, if the opera is still chugging along. It can be a process, with the opera members and the local musicians being more involved. Why not have some ideas filter up to the board, instead of everything filtering down? Why, I think that is probably happening right now.

It seems so simple, but cooperation can be a wonderful thing. Bring back the suggestion box. Have a suggestion box and wine/coffee evening following a short recital by some artists who are interested in outreach. Hear what some of the artists have to say about what they enjoy about opera, and what they hope to see in the future. Let the marvelous opera chorus display their rich sound!

Could they sing the national anthem for the Padres or the Chargers? Well, that might be a great way to introduce them to people who wouldn't hear them otherwise!

Could something be done in conjunction with the celebration of Balboa Park? Why not build something positive out of some rocky situations?

Sometimes the best vision of the future is comprised of ideas from many different people--because democracy really is a good thing, and it is possible to recognize thoughtful concepts that try to bring out the best in people and their community.

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Don Bauder April 29, 2014 @ 12:58 p.m.

eastlaker: Yes, the opera has now raised more than $300,000 in a short time. About 85% of the donations are gifts of less than $1000 and many are from first-time donors. This is a sign that the board has generated widespread appeal. Still, $1 million must be raised by May 19.

I think one of the most helpful steps would be staff members taking a 10% pay cut. This would hurt many people, but it would be a real saving. Staff members should look at it this way: better to take a pay cut than lose your job -- especially a satisfying job, like working for the opera. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan April 29, 2014 @ 6:10 p.m.

This is not about the Civic Theater's difficult layout or its parking garage corkscrew ramps or its weird plaza with a ship's prow fountain.

It might be partly about the high rent charged the Opera by the skin-flint City. (Thanks for nada, Mayor Faulconer.)

And it most certainly is not about having the Opera Chorus sing the national anthem at ballgames. My nine-year-old grandkid does that with a kid's choir -- and he has to pay for his ticket for the "privilege."

Let's end the blame refrain that Artistic Director Ian Campbell was wrong for collecting an impresario-sized salary. Campbell was an impresario: he made a San Diego Opera ticket worth its high price. He created a great and unusual experience, remarkable for this oh-so-limited municipality, and we should thank him for making the magic possible for as long as he did.

The new Board probably will not be able to raise what's needed to sustain grand opera and if Campbell is fired or retired, there will be no one else to replicate what he managed to create. Wine and coffee and craft beer evenings are NOT what we've had and enjoyed. Maybe somebody can launch a Gilbert & Sullivan company -- that would be fun -- but it will not be new operatic amazements like "Moby Dick" or old ones like "The Masked Ball."

Without recriminations against the maestro, let's just say hail and farewell.

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dwbat April 29, 2014 @ 8:37 p.m.

I've never watched an opera performance and never will. But even not knowing opera, I can tell that the Campbells were way overpaid. These facts cannot be denied. Instead, San Diego should say: "Good riddance, Campbells, and don't let the door hit you in the butts as you leave."

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Don Bauder April 30, 2014 @ 12:33 p.m.

dwbat: The membership voted in the way you suggest, and I believe the board will probably vote the same way overwhelmingly. Best, Don Bauder

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eastlaker April 29, 2014 @ 8:38 p.m.

monaghan: If I am understanding you correctly, you are convinced that SD Opera will not be able to be a going concern?

I am very sorry, if that is the case.

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I do not think that excellent opera and opening up to a few new ideas are mutually exclusive. I mentioned having the chorus sing the national anthem at a ball game in a rather off-hand manner, but as a genuine opportunity to allow a new group of people to hear a bit of what operatic voices are capable of.

I really believe that when talent is showcased and shared, people enjoy it. And I do think there could be a bit more of sharing the opera around San Diego. Obviously my opinion is not the last word on anything, but I do believe that there is a great deal of talent in the San Diego Opera that will not disappear with the departure of Mr. Campbell, gifted though he is in many ways.

It was nearly a crushing blow to many people when they heard the first announcement that the opera would close after the final performance of this season. I happen to think that was a very wrong decision, and I hope that the San Diego Opera will survive, remain creative, and flourish--going on to reach new audiences and new generations. I think that Mr. Campbell greatly underestimated San Diego, and the San Diego Opera Company. I don't think he really knew either of them, or he would not have acted as he did.

Furthermore, I am delighted that fundraising is going as well as it is. Over 1/3 of the $1 million has been donated, according to the SD Opera website. That seems like a healthy start to a new beginning.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2014 @ 6:54 a.m.

monaghan: I respect your point of view but do not agree with it. Yes, Ian Campbell brought two decades of high-quality grand opera to San Diego. But since attendance actually started down in 2006 (he told me that in 2009), he clearly did not adjust to new economic reality, as many other opera companies did.

Sorry. The combined salary of Ian and Ann WAS too high. Far too high. There was no excuse that in 2010 they raked in more than $1 million when the company was in a downspiral. (They had raked in just under $1 million in 2009.) The general director of New York's Metropolitan Opera was taking a pay cut to $1.3 million, and the Met is 15 times or more larger than SDO, depending on how you measure it.

I appreciate your point of view, but I am sure you realize it is a minority one. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan April 30, 2014 @ 12:04 p.m.

I am amazed that you continue to flog this dead horse of Ian Campbell's being "overpaid." It seems an ungrateful easy out and just generates more opinion from philistines like dwbat or well-intentioned boosters like eastlaker.

Ian Campbell indisputably made the San Diego Opera a standout. The Opera Board was probably delighted/grateful to be connected with Campbell's cultural miracle and happy to be associated with the remarkable institution's cachet. From what you have said, the former Opera Board was also generous in its financial support.

The Opera Board was/is in charge of Campbell's compensation and everything else. If his salary was hindering the organization's future, the Board should have reduced his fee. If that meant losing Campbell but "saving" the Opera in some way -- well, that's what Boards are meant to do: make difficult decisions and plan for change, even if change involves popularizing or dilution of classic expression.

Apparently the Opera Board was unwilling/unable to make those tough calls -- or to do much of anything else to improve the Opera's financial outlook. So there was stasis and implosion.

None of this is/was Ian Campbell's responsibility. Continuing to blame his high take-home pay seems off-point, churlish and maybe just a bid to keep a sensational thread going in the absence of new information about this watershed cultural loss. These days business moguls and basketball players pull down enormous salaries: why would you contend the Opera's artistic director should make less?

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eastlaker April 30, 2014 @ 12:26 p.m.

"well-intentioned boosters like eastlaker"--nice dis.

I supposed I could respond with a "Don, why bother having a discussion with confirmed Campbell apologist monaghan, it only emphasizes the status hierarchies which have been such a problem for SD Opera--to its great detriment..."

So here is what I think: Ian Campbell, a talented individual with much knowledge of opera, did some great things with the San Diego Opera, but his ego and temper allowed or brought him to take paths that ultimately were unhealthy for the survival of SD Opera. Instead of openly acknowledging that and working to widen the base of support, he preferred to stick with the comfy upper class set. Mixing with the public must be difficult when one is so grand...

Yet blindsiding hundreds of people by declaring their jobs gone is somehow "dignified"? Only to the most brazen of egotists.

All in good fun. Love a good debate and thanks for underestimating me.

Oh yes, and we still have not learned about the expense accounts/entertainment amounts that were in addition to the healthy salary and other perks. My guess is that that has substantially boosted Mr. Campbell's cost to the SD Opera.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2014 @ 3:08 p.m.

eastlaker: It is essential that the minutes of the compensation committee be revealed to the board. (If they have already been turned over, my apologies.) You are correct that expense account information is critical -- particularly for Ian Campbell's regular trips to Europe.

If the board is going to dismiss the Campbells, as it must, it needs information such as this. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan April 30, 2014 @ 9:12 p.m.

I don't think that continuing to produce first-rate grand opera in a burg like this in a barn like the Civic Auditorium -- even in the face of financial warning signs -- is an actionable offense. Ego, temper, sticking with the comfy upper class....those are NOT reasons the Opera as we knew it is/has folded. The Board was weak and did not do its job. Artistic director Ian Campbell did what he was supposed to do until the last curtain. But now we have a new Board, and changeling Nathan Fletcher is on it, so surely something wonderful will happen. Maybe Fletcher's Qualcomm bosses will ante-up and save the day. I'd be fine with that.

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eastlaker April 30, 2014 @ 11:50 p.m.

If there is an actionable offense involved here, it might have something to do with the two lines of activity that it appears Mr. Campbell was following. But I am not a trained legal mind.

Attempting to profit from the demise of the opera and the sale of sets and costumes can't really be looked upon as a great achievement in the annals of artistic leadership. Forcing the departure of one board president who was trying to address the problems, and then installing another board president who would do exactly as she was told...well, some people might think that could be considered shifty.

As I say, I am not trained in legal matters. But it all looks rather overly convenient--and then we have the lovely effort of trying to hurry the shut-down through without even consulting the membership of the opera...because the board vote must be able to carry the day. Yet, bylaws indicate otherwise.

So how much were the attorneys being paid for this thoroughly messed-up proceeding?

I cannot comment on what is actionable and what is not. I can comment on what an enormous disappointment Mr. Campbell's course of action has been.

The board was weak because that was how Mr. Campbell liked and wanted the board to be. It does look engineered to me. Not accidental. Not happenstance. Not an amazing series of coincidences...it looks to me like a really sweet set-up that almost paid off big for Mr. Campbell. And still might. But I hope the San Diego Opera will prove bigger than Mr. Campbell's ego.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2014 @ 12:57 p.m.

monaghan: The subject of the Campbells' grossly absurd pay is not a dead horse. Both board and association members have discussed it at length. Yes, the board should have acted. long ago. But Ian Campbell dominated the board. That's no excuse, but it is a fact.

Agreed: business moguls and pro athletes pull down enormous salaries. But athletes play to bigger audiences. Businesses are not democratically run. A consultant usually recommends the excessive salary and the board dutifully grants it. It stinks in both cases, but is not a reason why an opera director should get high pay. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat April 30, 2014 @ 1:57 p.m.

Having no desire to watch opera performances does NOT make one a philistine. You don't know me at all; I'm not anti-intellectual or anti-culture.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2014 @ 3:11 p.m.

dwbat: Agreed. One who does not like opera should not be assumed to be philistine or anti-intellectual. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan April 30, 2014 @ 8:56 p.m.

Having no wish to watch an opera performance is different from saying proudly as the sun of San Diego Opera sinks in the west, "I've never watched an opera performance and never will." That sounds like a philistine to me. But profuse apologies if I have hurt your feelings.

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Don Bauder May 1, 2014 @ 3:29 p.m.

monaghan: I stand with dwbat on this one. There are plenty of intellectuals and serious music lovers who don't like opera.

A similar kind of example: my wife and I have been going to opera for 52 years. We play opera CDs or watch opera DVDs almost every evening. But I love Wagner and she can't stand him. I only play Wagner when she has left the house for a few hours. Is she a philistine? Absolutely not. She knows more about music than I do. Best, Don Bauder

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OperaBuff April 29, 2014 @ 3:14 p.m.

Don: I am told the staff do not need any convincing about a pay cut, they just need to be asked. I imagine they'll be asked once the go/no go decision to have a 2015 is reached.

Eastlaker: I'm told the 2015 season is under contract so people should expect the same type of "grand style" of opera they've enjoyed in the past. 2016 is mostly contracted as well, again, so no major changes. One can assume there will be additional programming added that fall under "new and unusual" but everyone I've spoken to at the opera still plans on doing "grand style" opera such as "La Boheme" but using different sets rather than the same one that has been used in San Diego for the last few decades. I've seen "Madame Butterfly" at the opera now three times. It's been the same set. I would be happy to see if some of these "changes" are doing those great operas but renting different productions. Would sure keep me interested.

I've also heard that lots of collaboration is underway. Sometimes it takes looking death in the eye to realize how good one actually has it.

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Don Bauder April 29, 2014 @ 5 p.m.

OperaBuff: The Butterfly set was made by the opera's studio and I can understand why it was used three times. It's my understanding that La Boheme and Don Giovanni will have cheaper sets than Ian Campbell had planned to use. I don't know about Nixon in China. Doing Wagner's Tannhauser oratorio style is being discussed, I understand. That is an incredibly beautiful opera and the music can carry it without sets. I have seen a Flying Dutchman done oratorio style and it was quite satisfactory. Actually, many if not most operas can be done oratorio style. San Diego Opera has done several Wagner evenings oratorio style -- no sets, no costumes.

I had suggested going down to two operas, and just paying off singers under contract. But those making the decisions know more than I do, and must figure that it will be more economical to do the operas for which the leads are already under contract.

I don't think the board should wait for the go/no-go decision date to arrange for the staff to take a 10% cut. That should be done as soon as possible so the savings will be known. Best, Don Bauder

1

monaghan April 29, 2014 @ 3:43 p.m.

Excuuuse me, Nathan Fletcher on the new Board? Has he ever been to an opera? Does this mean Irwin Jacobs is going to bail out the organization?

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Don Bauder April 29, 2014 @ 5:03 p.m.

monaghan: I assume it is the same Nathan Fletcher as the politician. If he is the same Nathan Fletcher, I doubt that his presence will motivate Jacobs to cough up a big chunk of money. Fletcher lost, you know. I don't know if he is still employed at Qualcomm. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard April 30, 2014 @ 1:06 p.m.

Lots of performers get overpaid for failure, that's not so bad. Ian Campbell wants three years pay for not working and full severance package, because the institution he ruined can't fulfill his contract, because he is ordering it shuttered!!!! I could rarely afford to fill the empty seats at one of his productions, but it's easy to laugh at the self evaluation of management. "A masked Ball was the most successful production ever, but nobody came.". Opera that doesn't sell out second night is a flop. An Opera producer that doesn't understand that is worthless at any paycheck.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2014 @ 3:16 p.m.

Psycholizard: The problem is that Ian Campbell continued putting on lavish productions even as attendance and donations declined. To my knowledge, he has not explained why he did not change his strategy in the teeth of many years of decline. Attendance started going down in 2006. Best, Don Bauder

1

monaghan April 30, 2014 @ 8:59 p.m.

Maybe the answer is professional calling and stubborn artistry.

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Don Bauder May 4, 2014 @ 10:05 p.m.

eastlaker: We suspect venality, certainly, but it's too soon to make that charge. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 1, 2014 @ 3:34 p.m.

monaghan: But when the company was falling apart as Ian Campbell claimed it was, stubborn artistry had to give way to economic reality. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 1, 2014 @ 12:38 p.m.

CRITIC HOLTERHOFF LASHES THE CAMPBELLS FOR EXCESSIVE PAY. Manuela Holterhoff, a Pulitzer Prize winner during her 20 years with the Wall Street Journal, takes apart San Diego Opera (and other arts organizations) in a new Bloomberg column. "The selfish gene is blooming in the sunny town on the Pacific," she writes. "The opera company may not survive Ian Campbell, 68, the overpaid general director ($501,021) who's been running the company for some 30 years. Ann Campbell's pay of $282,345 "should have raised governance issues long ago."

She criticizes Ian Campbell for suddenly springing his desire to close the company so rapidly and secretly. "Perhaps the company will survive," writes Holterhoff. She makes only one error. She says Campbell was booed at the last performance of Massenet's Don Quixote. Actually, he was booed at the first performance of the opera, the last of the 2014 season -- but who's counting? Best, Don Bauder

1

eastlaker May 1, 2014 @ 2:47 p.m.

I think after being booed at the first performance of Don Quixote, Campbell realized that addressing the audience from the stage would be a big mistake--so he didn't give the later audiences an opportunity to boo him.

On the topic of the fundraising campaign, it looks to me like things are chugging along, with the opera's website showing over $400,000 having been raised.

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Don Bauder May 1, 2014 @ 3:38 p.m.

eastlaker: But the opera needs a million by May 19. There is a desperate need for somebody with big bucks to plunk in another million right now. That would carry it over the top comfortably. Best, Don Bauder

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eastlaker May 1, 2014 @ 7:12 p.m.

Well, the tally is now at $480,000, so if things continue at this rate, it looks good to me. I am risking sounding like one of those superficial booster types, but I am proud of what people are doing to contribute to the survival of the SD Opera.

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Anon92067 May 1, 2014 @ 9:11 p.m.

eastlaker, I do hope that you and all the others who have been posting so avidly on Don's blog have made your own contribution to the Opera. Everyone with a strong opinion should be part of the solution, and not just part of the dialogue. I have made my contribution, and hope everyone else will, too.

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eastlaker May 2, 2014 @ 6:38 a.m.

Well, yes I did, thanks! And the half-way point is getting close!

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Anon92067 May 2, 2014 @ 7:20 a.m.

Thank you! And yes, as of this morning, $495,026 has been raised. It is heartening to know that so many first-time donors have stepped up. I'm optimistic there will be a 2015 season and a new day for SD Opera. We can all applaud and thank the Campbell's for their past achievements. But it's important to know when to bow out, and exit, stage left! Rule 1 of The Theater. And it's time for the Campbell's to bow out, and new, energized, creative, responsible artistic leadership to take over.

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Don Bauder May 2, 2014 @ 12:20 p.m.

Anon92067: As I said earlier, I have made my donation even though I may never see a San Diego Opera production again. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 2, 2014 @ 12:16 p.m.

eastlaker: I suspect there are one or two really big ones waiting in the wings. They don't want to plunk in now, because small donors would then back away and figure it was a done deal. This is just a hunch. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 2, 2014 @ 12:18 p.m.

eastlaker: The sum of $480,000 looks pretty good now. But the pace cannot slow down. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard May 1, 2014 @ 5:07 p.m.

Philistine means ancient Palestinian, and it's use to mean uncultured probably should be dropped.

Those who care about singing well should give a listen to opera singers, in range, power, sustain, and facility, they are unexcelled. Tastes vary, but skill can be undeniable. Many other types of singers are trained by them.

1

Don Bauder May 2, 2014 @ 12:24 p.m.

Psycholizard: I agree that opera requires more skill than any other type of singing. However, trained opera singers often don't sound good in other disciplines. For example, I have heard opera singers take on Christmas Carols. They don't come off. Opera singers aren't that good in Gilbert & Sullivan or musical comedy roles. (Maybe Ezio Pinza in South Pacific was an exception.) Opera is a category of its own -- the highest one, of course. Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard May 2, 2014 @ 2:19 p.m.

Bel Canto singers have lost the popular touch with English speaking audiences. Sixty years ago they might make the move from Opera to Musicals like Ezio Pinza. Earlier artists like Deanna Durbin and Paul Robeson had the voice to sing anything, and did. Now nobody moves from one genre to another.

The microphone might explain some of this, the crooning style is so commonplace now Opera singers seem like shouting in the ear. They can hold their own in volume with a full orchestra with no amplification, but this skill is unnecessary with amplification.

Still, many singers start with classical training, and sing other genres.

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Don Bauder May 3, 2014 @ 9:41 a.m.

Psycholizard: I consider bel canto as an era around the 1830s -- Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, etc. Rossini's Barber of Seville is still one of the eight most popular operas. Rossini's Cinderella is right on the edge of the repertory. And he wrote a bunch of others that are successfully disinterred. Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Pasquale and Elixir of Love are in the repertory and all wonderful operas. Bellini's Norma is one of the greatest operas ever written, and La Sonnambula is right up there.

You may be thinking more of bel canto as a singing technique. That definition is commonly used. Then you go back to the baroque, when some of the greatest operas were written -- particularly those by Handel. San Diego did a couple of Handel operas (Ariodante and Julius Caesar in Egypt), and while the core audiences loved them, they did not attract good houses. Actually, Handel operas have made a comeback in the last 30 years or so, but probably not with American regional companies.

My wife and I listen to (or watch a DVD of) a Handel opera almost every night. But we're not in the mainstream of opera lovers. So I am not arguing with your main thesis: bel canto may have lost popularity.

Incidentally, I often make some opera lovers mad by stating that the best Italian operas were written by composers born in Germany or Austria. These would be Figaro, Giovanni, and Cosi by Mozart, and Alcina, Caesar, Rinaldo, and Orlando by Handel.

Wanna fight? Best, Don Bauder

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Psycholizard May 5, 2014 @ 2:16 p.m.

"Written" is used loosely with Handel, he lifted liberally from hit tunes written by others. Certainly he was a great hit maker. If you wish to argue that the Germans wrote better, you must argue with the German composers themselves, who were very devoted to the Italian style. To our Modern taste, which enters the Baroque through Bach, Handel might seem the finer composer, but it's difficult to argue with the accounts of Handel's day, that gave first place to the Italians, and then the French, they heard it as it should be performed.

But personal taste is the final answer for one person at least, but remember, you must always say, "The best I've heard so far.". To make that more definitive, you must listen to lots of Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Cavalli, Cesti, Monteverdi. If you love Handel, that should be a delightful task.

Mozart's operas were universally acclaimed from the beginning, and have never lost their appeal. And they sparkle with real originality, a concept not valued in Handel's day. No one can deny such genius. But there is Puccini, and Verdi.

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eastlaker May 6, 2014 @ 9:23 a.m.

$692,549, Tuesday morning, May 6th!! Not bad. Hope it keeps rolling!

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Kookaburra May 11, 2014 @ 9:52 p.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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