With the first of a few benefit concerts for San Diego Opera coming up in a few weeks, let's talk a little bit about what has happened in San Diego and what is happening in New York.
When Ian Campbell announced he was closing the company, it was the best thing that he could have done because it created an immense amount of energy. Had he retired or stepped down the company may have failed completely.
By becoming the villain he fueled the passion of hundreds of opera employees and opera lovers in San Diego. The result is that there is still an opera company in San Diego.
Now we hear about the Metropolitan Opera being in financial trouble even with a $300+ million budget. Why aren’t they working together to save their company like San Diego is doing?
Because what has happened in San Diego includes a drastic reduction of labor costs. The Met management wants a 16-17% reduction of labor costs.
With the cancellation of Tannhauser, the stage hands, wigs and makeup, and costumes have experienced, at minimum, a 25% reduction in the hours they will work for San Diego Opera. In all likelihood it’s much more than that.
I have no idea how the cancellation of Tannhauser affects the orchestra but, again, it’s 25% of the season at a minimum.
For the chorus, no Tannhauser means at least a 50% reduction for the core chorus and it means dozens of chorus members from previous seasons will receive no work at all.
That there is a season at all this year is a miracle brought about by the persistent efforts of the new board and the White Knight Committee, and I predict that with new leadership, SDO will grow beyond the level it accomplished with Mr. Campbell.
However, there is no real comparison between San Diego and New York.