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Afternoon at the (final?) opera

Criticism of Campbells persists, "town hall" meeting planned

The confused yet honorable Don Quixote wandering the Civic Center stage vanquishing windmills and shaming robbers served as a perfect metaphor for the final performance of the San Diego Opera. Woven around and through the April 13 performance were minimalist protests designed to express outrage and a desire to save the opera.

The community has responded in myriad ways to director Ian Campbell’s March 19 announcement that the opera would be closing for good after the final performance of Don Quixote.

Some have said it’s just a dying form of aristocratic entertainment — let it die. Others suggest that the San Diego art scene will be impoverished and ruefully refer to a new football stadium waiting in the wings.

But the main response has been anger at the million-dollar salaries and perks received by director Ian Campbell and his former wife Ann Spiro Campbell.

On Sunday, attendees were greeted by a solitary protester holding up a sign calling for Ian and Ann Campbell’s resignation.

At the end of the opera, the performers stepped back so the people who make it all happen behind the scenes — the set designers, choreographers, costume designers, musicians (many wearing “Save San Diego Opera” T-shirts) — could take the stage and the final curtain call.

As opera-goers exited the theater, they were offered chalk and asked to write on the pavement. Within minutes, the plaza was filled with colorful scrawls aimed at keeping the opera alive.

The crowd was also leafleted. The small red-and-white handbills passed out at the door announced a "town hall meeting” at 4:30, April 17, hosted by Nicolas Reveles, in the Copper Room of the San Diego Civic Concourse.

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The confused yet honorable Don Quixote wandering the Civic Center stage vanquishing windmills and shaming robbers served as a perfect metaphor for the final performance of the San Diego Opera. Woven around and through the April 13 performance were minimalist protests designed to express outrage and a desire to save the opera.

The community has responded in myriad ways to director Ian Campbell’s March 19 announcement that the opera would be closing for good after the final performance of Don Quixote.

Some have said it’s just a dying form of aristocratic entertainment — let it die. Others suggest that the San Diego art scene will be impoverished and ruefully refer to a new football stadium waiting in the wings.

But the main response has been anger at the million-dollar salaries and perks received by director Ian Campbell and his former wife Ann Spiro Campbell.

On Sunday, attendees were greeted by a solitary protester holding up a sign calling for Ian and Ann Campbell’s resignation.

At the end of the opera, the performers stepped back so the people who make it all happen behind the scenes — the set designers, choreographers, costume designers, musicians (many wearing “Save San Diego Opera” T-shirts) — could take the stage and the final curtain call.

As opera-goers exited the theater, they were offered chalk and asked to write on the pavement. Within minutes, the plaza was filled with colorful scrawls aimed at keeping the opera alive.

The crowd was also leafleted. The small red-and-white handbills passed out at the door announced a "town hall meeting” at 4:30, April 17, hosted by Nicolas Reveles, in the Copper Room of the San Diego Civic Concourse.

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Comments
9

I am glad you had the opportunity to be there, Ms. Luzzaro.

What can be said? If the Campbells get away with destroying SD Opera and leaving town with their $3 intact, San Diego will have been had.

We really do need some legal eagles to make sure that doesn't happen. After spending years pleading for legal intervention from the Sweetwater multiple and egregious messes, dare we hope that someone in authority will actually wake up and respond in time to keep this opera company from being unnecessarily crushed?

What about that recent report about employment rates in San Diego? Are we doing so well that we can afford to let some 500 jobs go--when these are highly skilled and valuable people?

April 14, 2014

It is deeply unfair to blame Opera Director Ian Campbell for the demise of this wonderful institution when he is the one who has delivered years of pleasure to so many patrons from all over Southern California -- and employment to so many artists from San Diego and around the world. The Board of Directors is supposed to fund the enterprise with frugal decisions, clever strategies to market the product and regular infusions of their own money. If anyone failed to live up to expectations, it is the Opera Board.

April 14, 2014

Ian's ex-wife was in charge of marketing, and was highly paid. She failed miserably at her job, and Ian should NEVER have hired her in the first place. Ask Ian to look up the word "nepotism" and then report back. His unethical decision should have been overruled by the wishy-washy Board. For this and other self-serving behavior, he should be fired immediately and not rewarded with a payoff as he packs his bags for departure.

April 14, 2014

Sure Ian Campbell did a great job for many years. However, in the end he will be known as a louse. That is how he will be remembered and that will be his legacy. He tried to close the company down quietly but he sorely underestimated the disappointment the surprise announcement would stir.

As long as there was money there, Ian Campbell could paper over any snags. There’s nothing a checkbook would not fix. When the future looked bleak he took pay raises and gave his wife a quarter-million dollars a year job. They were rewarded with cars, Ian a new Audi.

If sales are weak and contribution are going down, you don’t hire your wife and increase your wages… you take austerity measures and you sound the alarm and let the people in the community know that you need help. The Campbell’s knew the ship was sinking but they didn’t tell the passengers or the potential rescuers. They schemed to close the company down and preserve their handsome contracted benefits. The board is supposed arrive at clever strategies, Ann Campbell was charged with that.

Greed, self-interest, incompetence and inaction are the buzzwords for this tragedy.

April 15, 2014

Many a brilliant career will be remembered by how it ended. Yes, Ian did incredible work to build the Opera. But just because he achieved that does not absolve him if he failed in the end. Some people retire at the peak of their career, others hang on to the glory days and are remembered instead for all of the mistakes at the end. A-Rod, anyone? He absolutely should shoulder some of the blame. And yes, the Board should have recognized long ago that their Director was not performing as he should have been, and taken the appropriate steps at that point. Their job, however, is not to do the staff's work (i.e. marketing.)

April 15, 2014

While the Karen Cohn and followers rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, the Campbell’s quietly lower their lifeboat.

April 15, 2014

Lifeboat? More likely they'll sail off in a small yacht!

April 15, 2014

Let's all hope that the rallies will carry the day, and the renewed strength of the SD Opera Association will mean something!

The demise of SD Opera should not take place, at least like this, with financial questions unanswered, with suggestions that what is behind this is a property sale that would benefit the football stadium crowd...as if building the football stadium on the corpse of SD Opera would be a good idea.

Was the thought that Ian and Ann could get out of town with a bit more loot that way?

This seems like the back story is being revealed to be more and more sordid. I for one am glad to hear of law suits slapping the board. Maybe their eagerness will be tempered by some actual cogent thinking. Because even if Ian and Ann leave town, what of the rest of the board? Those remaining in the thrall of the great Impresario might be cleaning the egg of their faces for quite some time.

Might be time for some further thought.

April 16, 2014

Let me know when the fat lady sings.

Signed, The Bigger the Better

April 20, 2014

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