The San Diego Opera, long considered one of the best in the country, recently announced that financial difficulties necessitated its closure at the end of its 2014 season. But in his farewell speech before fleeing, er, floating to his newly acquired Caribbean island in a golden hot-air balloon, Director of Destruction, Dismantling and Despair Ian Campbell noted that "the San Diego Opera Association shell still remains intact — if anyone wants to take another crack at it."
Now, the 24 (out of 58) members of the Opera's Board of Directors who were not given an opportunity to vote on the closure have decided to do just that. "Under our old mission statement, we were discouraged from doing so-called 'lighter' operas — things like Gilbert and Sullivan or Mozart," says longtime board member Mavis Biddy. "Plus, when Joan Kroc gave us $11 million in 2004, she said it had to go to fancy fare, and we rode that gift horse until it collapsed in the middle of the desert and left us to die — so to speak. But all that is behind us now. It's time to start doing operas that people want to see. That's why we formed the San Diego Popera."
The Popera's first show, scheduled for November of this year, will be an adaptation of Caligula, Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione's famously failed foray into mainstream moviemaking. "We're taking our cues from musical theater, another industry that has been forced to change with the times. These days, the biggest shows are often adaptations of existing movie properties — The Lion King, say, or Rocky, or Sister Act. And they don't need to be hits — Xanadu is regarded as one of the biggest Hollywood flops of all time, but it was a huge hit on Broadway. Sometimes, a story just has to find the right home. And if opera isn't the right home for a crazy Roman emperor with delusions of divinity who is in love with his sister and makes his horse into a Senator, then I don't know what is. Just wait to hear Caligula's heartbreaking aria to Drusilla, Si è rotto il mio cuore a fatti sentire ("It broke my heart to spill your guts"). There won't be a dry eye — or a settled stomach — in the house."
The move comes as welcome news to current Penthouse publisher FriendFinder, currently in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings. "It's no secret that print media is hurting," says spokesman Clint Skeeve. "And on top of that, the tube sites are ruining the video end of the porn industry. The only way to survive is to synergize across multiple media platforms. If that means taking our penchant for Roman orgies to the San Diego Civic Center stage, then so be it. Truth be told, I didn't even know we had the rights to Caligula until Ms. Biddy wrote us a letter."
"Of course, we won't really have any orgies," added Ms. Biddy when told of Mr. Skeeve's comments. "But we do need a little skin — we're depicting Rome at the height of its decadence, and the young people of today have certain expectations. That's why we contracted with Pacers Showgirls to provide extras with a little something extra, if you take my meaning. And once we got the girls on board, the good people at Vivid Video agreed to come down and tape the whole thing for a DVD release. They've even talked about adding some bonus footage, though I don't know what that would involve."
Hopes are high. "In the end, this whole closure fiasco could turn out to be a blessing in disguise," says HBO President of Prurience Bob Booby. "Opera was dying. Now, it's a sexy new venue for radical experimentation. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but one of the boys in Marketing sent me this mockup, and you know what? It just feels right. I won't be happy until I hear some big-ass Bass rumble out, "The Lannisters send their regards."