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One of the biggest questions in the San Diego Opera brouhaha is about whether general director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife Ann Spira Campbell will get paid generous benefits if the opera closes down.

Karen Cohn, the chairwoman who resigned yesterday, first said the Campbells would get nothing. She kept repeating that even after saying the Campbells would get in line behnd other unsecured creditors. That was double-talk. Lawyers have been recruited to write ambivalent, enigmatic letters indicating the Campbells won't fill their pockets if the opera goes down.

Faye Wilson

There was a meeting on March 11 of this year in which the Campbells, powerhouse boardmember Faye Wilson (who has also resigned), and a few other insiders plotted how to present their plan to abruptly shut down the opera at the March 19 board meeting. The board did vote overwhelmingly to shut down but later backed away from that course.

I have learned that Wilson told the Campbells to not mention their Supplemental Employee Retirement plan or their extremely generous contracts before other items were discussed at that meeting. (Their contracts indicate Ian Campbell can be paid through 2017, and his ex-wife Ann can be paid 18 months of salary after she departs. And there are other possible benefits, such as the supplemental plan, that they may be eligible for.)

Wilson, a veteran banker who was in on the founding of Home Depot, told the Campbells that in the corporate world, smart executives don't lead off a meeting discussing the fat checks they might receive if the action they are pushing is taken.

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Visduh April 18, 2014 @ 10:24 a.m.

There was a front-page article in today's Mill that actually came across as a fairly good effort to report the events. The behavior of Karen Cohn and Wilson is hard to fathom. I'd expect them to be happy to leave the board under the circumstances. They both could claim that their efforts and votes were "in the best interests" of the opera, and then graciously relinquish their seats to members who had other ideas. So, why are they so wedded to the notion of dissolution? My take is that both have some actions and votes that cannot be justified to others. And the place to start with that is the compensation owed to Ian and Ann that would continue after the shut down. There's a lot more here than has so far been shared within and without the board and membership. I predict that we will learn much more in coming weeks, and that some people will (or should be) highly embarrassed when the actual situation is revealed.


Anon92067 April 18, 2014 @ 11:28 a.m.

What is the "Mill" you refer to? Can you send a link?


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 11:35 a.m.

Anon92067: Visduh calls the Union-Tribune "the Mill." There was an opera story in the U-T this morning. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh April 18, 2014 @ 11:36 a.m.

My sarcastic nickname for Papa Doug's UTSanDiego is "The Manchester Mill." "Mill" for short. Got it?


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 11:39 a.m.

Visduh: I have already informed Anon92067. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 11:33 a.m.

Visduh: It is my understanding that Faye Wilson is responsible for the outrageous pay of the Campbells. She apparently looked the other way on the nepotism factor, and on the question of whether the opera was de facto picking up Ian's alimony payments when she got that big contract in 2013.

This information that I posted shows that Wilson, Ian, and Ann had discussed the Campbells' extremely generous post-closedown compensation packages before the March 11 meeting at which a few insiders discussed how they would sell their dissolution idea to the board on March 19. Obviously, the three of them were sensitive on that topic, and every pronouncement by the insiders since then has radiated anxiety about an embarrassment of riches.

Yes, I believe more will come out. It may have to be forced out through a lawsuit. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh April 18, 2014 @ 11:42 a.m.

There is no Brown Act for non-governmental bodies, and factions of boards of directors are free to meet in secret and not-so-secret conclaves to set up action at official meetings. We can only marvel at the willingness of these influential and veteran board members to stuff the Campbell pockets with cash, even as income to the opera was waning. That guy must have some way with women!

More will come out for sure. But there is still the slim possibility that a criminal investigation could bring more to light.


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 12:56 p.m.

Visduh: I have checked; the opera has no records or minutes of this meeting. But the opera says that such private meetings often take place.

Yes, the Campbell pockets got stuffed, even though it was obvious they were not responding to the changing market forces for at least eight years. Fat raises and poor performance should not go together, although admittedly they often do in the private sector. Best, Don Bauder


Ponzi April 18, 2014 @ 12:18 p.m.

If you read this story about the SDO (published in the U-T just a couple of months before Ian Campbell announced the opera was to close) you would never have guessed there were any financial problems... Ian Campbell "spoke briefly about San Diego Opera’s 50th anniversary year (coming in 2015), and thanked the Diamond Circle Producers, patrons who make the exceptionally generous donations essential to ensuring the organization’s continued artistic excellence."



Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 1:50 p.m.

Ponzi: Yes, the problems were really not mentioned widely. Only the few in the inner circle knew (or thought they knew.) So the opera was living a lie -- not only to San Diegans, but to its own employees and most board members.

The question is when the insiders concluded that the opera had to be killed. Was it just before the March 19 meeting? Doubtful. As I reported earlier, there was a committee of board members and the then-president who came up with many ideas for addressing the problems. But, according to several interviews I have had, Ian and Faye Wilson decided that this committee should be folded into the executive committee. That effectively killed any problem-solving. The president was told she should resign, and did so. I have tried to get her to talk unsuccessfully. This suggests the plan to kill the opera was in the works for some time.

Oh yes. About that U-T story. Puccini did not write "Pagliacci." Leoncavallo did. But of his works, only "Pagliacci" hit the big time. Puccini hit the big time many times. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 19, 2014 @ 9:57 a.m.

Do you happen to know when it was that the former president was forced to resign? Perhaps she has been threatened with legal action if she were to speak publicly about this. Maybe a deposition is the only way to get the story.

What continues to amaze me is that there were so very few members of the board who understood that the attempt to kill the opera in this way was reprehensible in the extreme.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 11:53 a.m.

eastlaker: I don't know the exact date but will try to get it for you. It was quite recent -- within a year, I think. Your other keen observation: one problem was that there 58 people on the board. Being on the board was a reward for a big donation. The board was 4 or 5 times too large, and some of the members were Beautiful People who didn't know anything about opera -- and some didn't know economics. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 18, 2014 @ 2:22 p.m.

Must admit when first I glanced at this headline, I read it as "Opera operative advised no discussion of fat chicks"...thinking, well, Don is really going colloquial, and playing on the old "it ain't over..." saw.

Well, it looks like it ain't over.

And good for that. I do hope we find out exactly what has been behind all the shape-shifting.


Visduh April 18, 2014 @ 3 p.m.

Maybe the opera fell victim to a Navajo skin walker.


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 4:58 p.m.

Visduh: I can think of some creatures a skin walker might morph into: a mule, for example. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 4:54 p.m.

eastlaker: There are some fat chicks and fat fellas that sing opera. There has been lots of discussion over the years about why opera singers are so often overweight. Barrel chests help in projecting to the audience, and maybe can lead to corpulence.

But there are many thin folks singing, too. You know: a "reedy Pagliaccio." Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 19, 2014 @ 12:33 p.m.

Yes, laughing at my mistake, but pleased it provided fodder for further conversation.

The thing about shape-shifters is that they appear here and there all over the world, in many cultural contexts/myths. One from South America is particularly appealing, the Encantanto, I think it is called. It loves music and lives around the water and is dangerous at night! But I had been thinking more along the lines of the good artistic director becoming a not-so-good general and artistic director...


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 5:25 p.m.

eastlaker: Did Bach write an Encantanto Cantata? Can't wait to hear it. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 20, 2014 @ 7:29 p.m.

Bartok had something like that, I think!


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 8:08 p.m.

eastlaker: Encantanto Cantata does sound Hungarian. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 5:03 p.m.

San Diego Highwayman: You might be qualified to sing Mephistopheles. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 18, 2014 @ 5:40 p.m.

Opera singers might be the heaviest to take the stage in a lead role, because actors don't get hired when overweight, but I'm not sure the average listener is really so much lighter. If I were to find reasons, I would suggest hours of practice at home combined with a nerve wracking job.


Don Bauder April 18, 2014 @ 9:01 p.m.

Psycholizard: The average listener -- those in the audience -- are lighter in the wallet. All over the U.S., attendance is down 24% over the last ten years. Many fewer subscriptions are being purchased. So operas have to have new fundraising, marketing, repertoire, and administrative strategies. Costs must be slashed. International stars are not needed in every lead role. This is where San Diego Opera fell down.

When my wife and I started going to opera regularly 52 years ago, the lead singers were often poor actors, and more often overweight than they are now. This changed as opera put more stress on drama. This could change again, if companies go for chamber operas in small venues, opera oratorio-style, etc. To me, opera is 90% music. To others, the percentage is not so high. Best, Don Bauder


Burwell April 19, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

It's unfortunate that in the sunset years of his career Pavarotti had to be hoisted upon the stage with a forklift due to his considerable girth. Perhaps this explains why the American public has turned its back on opera: revulsion that many opera lovers merely stood aside and did nothing as Pavarotti slowly ate himself to death.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 7:29 a.m.

Burwell: I haven't heard that story about Pavarotti. But I understand that Jane Eaglen, who sang in Turandot in San Diego, got so corpulent that she ran out of gas before an opera was over. She must have weighed 350 pounds. Beautiful voice -- but. Best, Don Bauder


Operatenor April 19, 2014 @ 9:26 p.m.

Don, that was my first show with the SDO. When Eaglen came out in the second act and walked down up the zigzag walkway, we could hear the framework creaking as she went by. That being said, she was a sweetheart.


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 7:18 a.m.

Operatenor: Yes, but that was still a glorious Turandot. I have a DVD of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde with Ben Heppner singing Tristan and Jane Eaglen singing Isolde. There were probably 700 pounds between them. This is one of the legendary love tales of all time, but I keep wondering if Heppner and Eaglen could have consummated a love relationship. There must be some position they could have used. Best, Don Bauder


dwbat April 19, 2014 @ 9:54 a.m.

Incorrect information. Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 11:55 a.m.

dwbat: I think Burwell was being satirical when he said Pavarotti ate himself to death. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 21, 2014 @ 7:36 a.m.

dwbat: As I state in a blog post below, there appears to be a link between pancreatic cancer and obesity. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 19, 2014 @ 12:29 a.m.

Some operas call for fancy staging, others do not. The original producers had to work on a budget, just like modern ones. La Boheme is fine in a dumpy set, while Turandot really should have a princely set. But if you sang Turandot in tee shirts it still would be a great work of art and a worthy effort.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 7:32 a.m.

Psycholizard: Agreed. Turandot is filled with beautiful music, and not just the famous aria "Nessun dorma." Best, Don Bauder


MURPHYJUNK April 19, 2014 @ 8 a.m.

the sad part is these people feel they deserve what they took.

not honorable persons


eastlaker April 19, 2014 @ 9:46 a.m.

To me, the saddest is that they DID conspire to deceive (allegedly) when they attempted to close down the opera with a vote of the board, when bylaws specified that it needed to be a vote of the members, i.e. the opera association. You can't tell me they didn't know what they were doing, as they claim to have had legal advice all along. So now what would the excuse be? "Our lawyers weren't familiar with procedures for non-profits"? Or, "We were trying to move so fast no one would know what hit them?"


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 5:31 p.m.

eastlaker: They obviously entered into planned deception in so many areas -- particularly not telling the staff, many of the board members, and, of course, the public. According to one source, the insiders deliberately did not tell the board that there would be a dissolution vote March 19 so that the staff would not find out. I believe there was another reason: they only wanted the board members who were in their pockets to show up at the meeting that day. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 11:58 a.m.

Murphyjunk: Right you are. Even hedge fund operators who rake in a billion dollars a year think they are underpaid. In their final half dozen years, the Campbells clearly did not do their jobs. But even before that when they were doing an excellent job, they were overpaid. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 8:04 a.m.

FABIANI OUT AT OPERA. According to excellent information, Mark Fabiani, who briefly served as an opera public relations strategist on a pro bono basis, is now out. Board members complained that Fabiani came aboard without board consultation. Also, some resented a flack for the Chargers, pushing for a taxpayer-financed stadium, being in a position of power at an opera company.

Lisa Cohen, a former associate of Fabiani, was handling media inquiries for a short time. She is also out. It was no secret that Fabiani and Cohen worked for the Campbells, Wilson, and others in the tight circle at the top. Now that the board leans in favor of rescuing the opera, instead of slaying it, Fabiani and Cohen were not wanted.

The board has extended the shutdown date to at least May 19. It is not clear if Fabiani and Cohen will continue to work for the Campbell coterie at the top. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 19, 2014 @ 9:33 a.m.

Last night I attended the Minnesota Opera at the Ordway Center; they have put together a very unique production of "The Magic Flute", done in German Expressionist style with a touch of Edward Gorey and the flying monkeys from "The Wizard of Oz". Animation is projected onto the stage, with various doors opening at various levels and some action still taking place on the stage in front of the flat backdrop with doors.

I was struck by several things. To begin, the audience was a much younger group than is seen in San Diego. Maybe that was because the production had the animation component which served to fill in some story elements so that the whole thing was a bit easier to follow. Still, I did hear one young man say when walking out, "I was lost...who is Isis?" And his companion started to explain Egyptian gods but not really getting to why they would figure in this plot.

There was a pre-opera talk that was excellent: a lively speaker who was also fantastic on the piano, explaining some of what was behind the story and the music of "The Magic Flute". The back-up singer for Poppagano sang the 'suicide' song, just after we had heard how Mozart had amazingly been able to write this work while his life and health were in terrible shape. Of course I am only clumsily putting down what was expressed very well.

It was a very lively night, the performances were strong, although the Queen of the Night had some problems in a few places.

My opinion is that the lamenting of opera's decline needs to come to an end. We need more arts and music in schools, so all children can be exposed to what is out there. Opera shouldn't be merely or mostly for the evening gown and tux crowd. Everyone benefits from hearing these voices!

Perhaps some of you haven't heard the story of Gustavo Romero, pianist. When he was in elementary school in Chula Vista, in maybe 2nd grade, he heard a piano being played in the room next to his. He was transfixed, needed to know more, asked and asked to get the chance to play, and the school figured out a way. He showed so much talent, that he and his family ended up getting sponsorship and moving (I think) to LaJolla, where he had the opportunity for first-rate training and development. He is now a concert pianist and professor of music at a school in Texas.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 12:03 p.m.

eastlaker: Of course, Magic Flute is an opera that attracts young people -- very young people. Some companies put on special Magic Flutes for children. The Minnesota production sounds enchanting. It is a beautiful opera -- Mozart's second best, behind Marriage of Figaro. (My opinion, of course.)

Yes, the Gustavo Romero story is quite heartening. He is an international pianist who has played with the San Diego Symphony. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92067 April 19, 2014 @ 10:30 a.m.

Somewhere along the line in the 20th century, opera became "elitist." But originally, it was truly the people's art form--a raucous, entertaining, thoroughly populist manner of storytelling. It strikes me, seeing the images of beautifully coiffed and expensively dressed women like Karen Cohn, Ann Campbell, and others at the San Diego Opera: why didn't they do more to reach out to ordinary people? Why were all the fundraising efforts aimed at just the tiny small slice of big donors? Clearly, those are the ones who have dug the grave of SDO, and who have so shunned any potential change of direction that reeks of "populism." This editorial in the UT makes some good points: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/apr/19/tp-rooting-for-opera-survival/all/?print

I do hope that new Chair Carol Lazier goes ahead and thanks and dismisses Ian and Ann Campbell. They, too, got so used to hanging around with the very rich that they seem to have come to believe they were also part of that crowd and ergo the big salaries, cars, "executive health plans," and so forth.

Many people inside the opera still feel pessimistic that anything good can come of all this, but I remain an optimist and hope that good sense and a bit of humility prevail. Maybe our empty-suit-mayor might even step up, and offer for the 50th anniversary season to waive or at least discount the Civic Theater rental for a few stellar SDO performances next year. And the rest of the season can be held in other fine venues like the Neurosciences hall, Sherwood Hall at the museum in La Jolla, or even the Jacobs hall at Qualcomm. Come on, people, get creative!


Ponzi April 19, 2014 @ 11:24 a.m.

The opera became a social event for the well-to-do who disdain rubbing elbows with the proletariat.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 12:14 p.m.

Ponzi: Yes. In the early days of San Diego Opera, the board consisted of opera lovers. There was not that much socializing. And the opera did reach out to the proletariat in East and South County. One of our most opera-savvy board members was from South County -- Chula Vista, I believe. My wife and I lived in East County (Mt. Helix) and there was another Mt. Helix person on the board. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 12:10 p.m.

Anon92067: There is no question -- as I have said before on this blog -- that under the Campbells, the fundraising efforts were concentrated on the La Jolla/Del Mar/Rancho Santa Fe crowd. Nic Reveles was doing a terrific job trying to promote opera throughout the county, but top management was elitist.

It was a bad theory of management. Massage the very rich, hold parties for them, put them on the grossly overpopulated board even if they know nothing about opera.

And yes, just about everybody I communicate with say Ian and Ann must go. They failed in their final years, but still paid themselves too much, concealing deteriorating finances and secretly plotting, in my opinion, to close the company down abruptly. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 19, 2014 @ 12:38 p.m.

"Massage the very rich, hold parties for them..." That is why people are thinking that the public should see the expense accounts for entertainment. It has been mentioned somewhere that there were substantial travel perks for the inner circle, or some people on the board.


Psycholizard April 19, 2014 @ 2:28 p.m.

I hope I didn't start this rumor, because on this blog we've discussed possible reasons for hiding the books and reasons why management and board could believe themselves liable for debts. Lavish entertainment spending might be one cause, but we need to see the books.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 5:39 p.m.

Psycholizard: To my knowledge, the books have not been completely opened. If a reliable source tells me I am wrong, I will admit it. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 5:37 p.m.

eastlaker: Agree: those expense accounts have to be examined carefully. How much did the opera pay for Ian's regular trips to Europe? That's just one question. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92067 April 19, 2014 @ 9:03 p.m.

I would very much doubt that any board members received any direct travel perks from SDO. But I am sure that the "expense accounts" of the senior staff management were more than generous, and it is well known that Ian traveled to Europe often and did not skimp. I'm sure that there was also a lot of entertaining of donors, something that is not uncommon in nonprofit arts organizations. But most ethical donors do not want to see their charitable dollars going to entertain "themselves" and often make a point to pick up the tab for such entertaining. One wonders if that was a common practice at SDO?


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 7:34 a.m.

Anon92067: I did not mean to say that board members received travel perks. But senior staff did. Ian traveled regularly to Europe and told the board and advisory board of his experiences there. The part of the expenses on those trips picked up by SDO must be reported.

Yes, there were a lot of donor parties -- my wife and I attended some of them -- but I don't remember them being that lavish. Of course, we never went to the gala that I can remember. And we didn't go to opening nights. We were disturbed that in the early days of the opera, the board was made up of opera lovers. We went to the social events to talk opera. Under the Campbells, those events too often became Beautiful People soirees. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 19, 2014 @ 1:18 p.m.

Eastlaker hits with her description of that Magic Flute. Opera should be staged vigorously and imaginatively, all the tools of modern stagecraft should further the original concept. A good stage director entertains visually and the Magic Flute gives a chance to pull out all the stops. Note that The Marriage of Figaro was first performed in everyday clothes in an everyday contemporary scene. The difference was dictated partly by budget. The Queen of the Night part was written for a specific soprano, not available for Figaro. Opera was always about who you have, what you have, and how much.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 5:41 p.m.

Psycholizard: Some have speculated that the Queen of the Night was inspired by Mozart's mother-in-law shrieking at him. In fact, wasn't that in the movie "Amadeus?" Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 19, 2014 @ 9:11 p.m.

In the pre-opera talk, it was mentioned that the Queen of the Night was definitely in the running for worst mother-in-law.


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 8:12 a.m.

eastlaker: The Queen of the Night may be the worst mother-in-law, but the bitchiest female in all opera is Clytemnestra in Strauss's "Elektra." In most operas, the no-good bastards are males. Clytemnestra even tops Scarpia, largely because the music mimics the caterwauling in this dysfunctional family. A bunch of screech owls. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 19, 2014 @ 10:23 p.m.

That makes a fun story, but it was certainly inspired by a singer who could sing an F over high C, very few can. The movie trashes Mozart's wife, who was a fine musician, and more sensible than Mozart with money. When Wolfgang died, the family ceased to go into debt. Some very talented people can't stay within a budget.


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 8:15 a.m.

Psycholizard: Incidentally, Richard Strauss's wife was a nag. When he would walk dreamily around the house, she would shout, "Richard! Get back to composing!!" He got back at her when he wrote an opera about a bitchy wife. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan April 19, 2014 @ 6:37 p.m.

Don - something more for this theater of the absurd. Can't resist responding to dbwat that there is a correlation between obesity and several kinds of cancer, so I have often thought it possible that we can eat ourselves to death as some will drink themselves to death. I was thinking that the long hours of focused practice doesn't allow much time for physical activity, kinda like sitting in a chair in front of the computer writing stories could make you fat, Don. The saddest thing ever was what happened to Ella Fitzgerald. I saw her at SDSU, I think late 70's.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 9:15 p.m.

shirleyberan: I looked it up. Yes, there appears to be a direct link between obesity and pancreatic cancer. So Burwell was probably right the first time -- obesity could have been a factor in Pavarotti's pancreatic cancer. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan April 19, 2014 @ 6:52 p.m.

I know we're not supposed to discuss weight, but the less than transparent fat cats started this problem, so they can fix it.


Don Bauder April 19, 2014 @ 9:17 p.m.

shirleyberan: Good one, Shirley! But I think the fat cats who started the San Diego Opera's problems won't be around to try to solve them. After all, they have announced that they don't want to solve the problems. Best, Don Bauder


Operatenor April 19, 2014 @ 9:31 p.m.

Don, do you feel there's an SDO-FayeWilson-Chargers organization link in here somewhere, given Fabiani's "pro bono" offer, plus the location of the Scenic Studio, as you dealt with in a previous article? To me, some thing along those lines seems to be the only logical explanation for the suddenness of this attempt to jump ship, as well as the timing of it in the season.


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 8:23 a.m.

Operatenor: As soon as Fabiani came aboard, I suspected something, but I wasn't sure what. Ditto for some board members. I think it is possible the Chargers are eyeing that Commercial Street studio, as part of a deal with the City, but I realize there may be nothing to that, and I don't know if anything like that is on the table as the City and Chargers negotiate.

The fact that Fabiani is out is a big plus, although he may be surreptitiously giving some advice to the Campbells and the inner circle. Best, Don Bauder


Operatenor April 21, 2014 @ 10:13 a.m.

Thank you, Don. I suspect as much as well, but we'll probably never know. I appreciate your open-mindedness in all of this, given your history and experience. You've been giving a much-needed public face to questions that need to be asked.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 7:05 a.m.

Operatenor: If the Chargers come to the public with some kind of deal that involves redevelopment of the Commercial Street area, we will have a good idea what transpired. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 10 a.m.

William Smith: Agreed. There are fewer overweight singers these days than there were 40 and 50 years ago. Back then, most people felt opera was 90% music. Who cared whether the tenor weighed 350 pounds? Now, people seem to want realistic drama, too. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 10:03 a.m.

Ken K. Liu: There is no question that excessive reliance on the Beautiful people in the rich areas, while remunerative, led to problems, including a board stacked with people that knew jewelry and yachts but not opera or double-entry bookkeeping. Best, Don Bauder


HonestGovernment April 20, 2014 @ 10:12 a.m.

Others worry about getting paid: lawsuit reportedly filed by opera singers: http://www.cbs8.com/story/25257241/singers-file-lawsuit-against-san-diego-opera

Also, people making moves to become the new SD Opera? On April 14, 2014, there was a new California State business filing named "San Diego City Opera."



Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 10:29 a.m.

HonestGovernment: 1. That is the labor union lawsuit against the opera that I mentioned on this blog several days ago; I have a copy of the suit. 2. This is new information to me; I know nothing about a filing for a San Diego City Opera Company. Thanks for alerting me. It's probably somebody who is filing for the launching of a new aggregation just in case the current company can't be saved. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 10:18 a.m.

Molly Whittaker: More than most stories, this is extremely sensitive and almost everybody wants to talk on background only. The major reason is that there is a huge split on the board, and much rancor. Old friendships have died bitterly. I am confident that the people I have talked with are telling the truth. Most of my sources are ones who want to save the opera. Those on the other side will see the same set of facts quite differently. 'Twas ever thus. The staff is almost 100% in favor of rescuing the company. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 10:23 a.m.

Molly Whittaker: I am just about 100% certain that Fabiani is no longer representing the opera company. My source is impeccable on this one. However, as I said, it is possible he is secretly counseling Ian and Ann Campbell, and Faye Wilson. That would be hard to find out.

If the board majority is unable to save the opera for lack of funds -- and tragically that is possible -- then the Campbell clique will be back in power and Fabiani may step back in. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 20, 2014 @ 7:34 p.m.

We need to find out if there is a safe way to donate. Has anyone heard anything?


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 8:07 p.m.

eastlaker: I am trying to find the answer to your questions, and hope to post something tomorrow (Monday, April 21). Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 9:09 p.m.

eastlaker: For now, the opera is asking that people hold on donations, but they should be prepared to give shortly. A couple of things have to happen first: 1. The board needs to decide which direction it wants to go on the 2015 season and 2. An escrow account needs to be set up to ensure that the donations only go toward funding a 2015 season. The escrow account will enable those that donate to get their money back if certain goals are not met. "The public outpouring has been amazing," says Edward Wilensky, public relations head for the opera, noting that if the opera gives the go-ahead, it will welcome gifts from $5 to $5 million."

Again, importantly, these answers should come shortly. Best, Don Bauder


Operatenor April 21, 2014 @ 8:17 p.m.

Don has it exactly right, thank you, Don.


Don Bauder April 20, 2014 @ 9:10 p.m.

George Weinberg-Harter: The discussion on weight of singers crept in. We don't mind diversions. Best, Don Bauder


Vissidarte April 20, 2014 @ 11:02 p.m.

The king of SD philanthropy--Irwin Jacobs--has been uniquely quiet about this. I wonder if the solution is not to sign him up on the new solution, throw in a few million to back it up, and totally forestalling any chance of a counter-revolution by Campbell/Cohn/Wilson. He has the stature to demand a total housecleaning and start over. Afterall, the Opera's demise will significantly reduce the Symphony players' income which jeopardizes the quality of the orchestra if they start leaving. So he has to protect that investment and not let it unravel.


Don Bauder April 21, 2014 @ 8:45 a.m.

Vissidarte: I have been told that Jacobs is not interested -- that he has looked at the numbers and figures the situation is hopeless. However, that is NOT inside information. I really don't know how Jacobs feels. I am just passing on a rumor and labeling it as such. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh April 22, 2014 @ 7:38 a.m.

Jacobs has been throwing his money around, imprinting his vision for San Diego on all sorts of things. But not all San Diegans like his vision, and with his current penchant for heavy political involvement, could be a cure that is worse than the disease. This opera breakdown needs to be solved by others, not him and his wife.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 9:03 a.m.

Visduh: I think Irwin Jacobs resents being roughed up in the battle over Balboa Park, and his inability to put Nathan Fletcher in as mayor. As a billionaire, he is not tapped out -- just battle-scarred. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 21, 2014 @ 8:42 a.m.

KINDERGARTEN SOCIALIZING SHOWS HOW DIVIDED THE BOARD IS. Members of the San Diego Opera board have been invited to a major party. It will be hosted by people who want the opera to drop dead. But those who want to save the opera had been invited. No more. They have been told not to show up -- their invitation has been yanked. This is sounding more and more like the Mickey Mouse Club. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 21, 2014 @ 1:01 p.m.

Careful now, Mickey Mouse resents the comparison. He's associated with the profitably idiotic.

We should remember that many of those on the Opera Board would find the Campbells pay a pittance, and he has attracted the support of wealthy donors who don't resent his pay. If the books are merely Looney Tunes and not criminal the Campbells should be bought off, perhaps their friends on the board will write the check. He deserves a settlement based on health issues, his mental health seems unsound.


Don Bauder April 21, 2014 @ 2:16 p.m.

Psycholizard: I don't think Ian's mental health is unsound and I have heard nothing like that. Neither Ian nor Ann Campbell ever deserved the post-closure pay they have in their contracts (he would get paid until 2017, she would get 18 months of severance.) And neither deserved the pay they have raked in for years. So I think the board should do everything in its power to limit severely the amount they receive, and perhaps wipe it away. I don't know if firing them for cause would do it. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 21, 2014 @ 4:10 p.m.

I'm not saying Mr. Campbell is insane, but I believe he is now mentally unfit for his high stress job. Facts are he resigned the task he was hired for, but wants to collect full benefits as if he was laid off. This can only fool the willing, but he has support. Once the books are open. the parties concerned should compromise. If they don't the lawyers will get everything.


Don Bauder April 21, 2014 @ 4:52 p.m.

Psycholizard: Some will argue that both Campbells got those generous post-departure contracts in good faith and they must be honored. The company argues that the Campbells will have to get in line behind other unsecured creditors, but some board members say that even then they will get $3 million between them. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan April 21, 2014 @ 4:25 p.m.

Mental disconnect/disturbance has to be proved. I see evidence.


Don Bauder April 21, 2014 @ 4:54 p.m.

shirleyberan: I don't see any evidence of mental disturbance with either Campbell. None whatsoever. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 22, 2014 @ 1:43 p.m.

Well, one could say there is evidence of raging ego, which sometimes goes with the territory when creative vision is called for...maybe not to the point of disturbance, but not quite in balance either.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 2:09 p.m.

eastlaker: Big ego yes, mental imbalance no. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 26, 2014 @ 1:33 p.m.

eastlaker: I honestly believe that the Campbells and Faye Wilson believed they could pull this off without controversy or brinksmanship. That was a mistake. Now the stakes are high. The small board clique deliberately deceived the staff, many board members and the public. This understandably raised hackles. I think the clique thought that once the board powerhouses began leaving -- and most have already left -- the other board members would meekly back down. Hurray for Carol Lazier and the other board members who stood up to the power play. Best, Don Bauder


PopeGiuseppie April 21, 2014 @ 4:51 p.m.


The horse manure flying around this crew is mind boggling... Who they THINK they are?

MITT Romney could figure this out between his shower and breakfast . . . but he's not ONE OF THEM! . . . let 'em piss away more on nothing... Ian / Ann will get fired due to insubordination... and lying on their resumes.. if the board really digs


Don Bauder April 21, 2014 @ 5 p.m.

PopeGiuseppie: When they separated, Ian sent out a letter saying that the two would be moving into the same condo -- one on one floor and the other on another. He said at that time that neither had a love interest. It appears both do now. The condo arrangement did seem unusual.

There are still many raised eyebrows about Ann getting promoted and a raise in 2013, after the divorce. Someone on the board should have been asking that if things were so bad at the opera, had they been doing their jobs? Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 7:14 a.m.

shirleyberan: Scammers? That still has to be investigated. There are plenty of questions: why were they paid so much and given such generous benefits even as their strategies clearly were not working? Did Ian Campbell want to kill the company to protect his and Ann's benefits? Why did not the Campbells make changes and cut costs sufficiently five years ago, when things were deteriorating? Why was there planning for Ian's retirement but no planning for a replacement for him? Why did Ian and Faye Wilson move to kill the special board committee that wanted to address the problems? There are many more questions. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan April 21, 2014 @ 5:45 p.m.

Don - Also, when you need to say fat chicks (4/18) checks, don't force it out of your constant readers.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 7:15 a.m.

shirleyberan: Watch for my column this week. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92067 April 21, 2014 @ 6:28 p.m.

It is ridiculous for people who do not know the Campbell's to be speculating on their marriage or divorce. Familes come together and break apart in thousands of different ways, and divorce does not need to be acrimonious. Everyone deserves privacy, including the Campbell's. And in any case, this has nothing to do with what happened at SDO. There is plenty of blame to go around, but ultimately it is the Board of Directors who are the most culpable. Ian Campbell reports to them, and only to them. If the Board knew fully what financial catastrophe was coming, they were irresponsible not to call for drastic cuts. As someone said, a 20% cut back in 2009 or 2010 could have resulted in enough savings to stablize things. And if the CEO was incapable of managing, the Board should have fired him. Furthermore, if the head of fundraising couldn't raise enough money, then her supervisor should have fired her. Instead, there seems to have been many mysterious goings-on, often tied in to Faye Wilson, who clearly had enormous power--and wielded it when needed.

People should focus on the mismanagement and misdeeds of the Board and the senior staff of SDO (not just the Campbell's, but there are others who are also culpable); they should lay off inappropriate (and incorrect) speculation about the marriage and divorce of Ian and Ann Campbell.


Operatenor April 21, 2014 @ 8:22 p.m.

No, that's not a correct assessment. The board was conditioned over the years to trust Ian's word as gospel; no dissent was tolerated. The same has been true in the office for years now.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 7:21 a.m.

Operatenor: You are absolutely right. See my response to Anon92607 below. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 7:20 a.m.

Anon92607: Ideally, the board should have been in charge, and Ian should have been reporting to it. But, sadly, that was not the case. Ian dominated the company and also the board. He had a small clique of board members eating out of his hand.

The divorce cannot be left out of the discussion because of logical suspicions about nepotism and Ann's remuneration post-divorce. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 22, 2014 @ 1:23 a.m.

It's worth money to make the Campbells go away. If the Campbells care anything about dignity and reputation, it's worth something to resolve this quickly. After the books are examined, if no crimes are revealed, perhaps a deal can be made.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 7:22 a.m.

Psycholizard: I believe that a deal is being hashed out right now. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92067 April 22, 2014 @ 7:07 a.m.

And your comment just confirms my point: the Board is ultimately culpable--for letting the CEO lead them around by the nose, and for letting him run an operation where no dissent was tolerated. I'm well aware that the Campbell's stacked the deck in their favor by building a board with majority supporters. But that doesn't let the Board off the hook from their ultimate governance and fiduciary responsibility as described by nonprofit law. The buck stops with them, and they could fire their CEO. What got perverse is that the CEO and his deputy apparently were able to "fire" the one president of the Board who opposed them--Stacy Rosenberg. Of course, they didn't do it themselves, they just manipulated the inner circle of Board members to freeze her out till she resigned. But again, the Board had free will AND governance responsibility. They just chose to ignore it.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 7:31 a.m.

Anon92067: I did not mean to let the board off the hook. I was simply arguing that for the reasons I cite above, the divorce unfortunately becomes a key part of the remuneration discussion. The board SHOULD have second-guessed Ian on many decisions -- particularly the one not to cut spending more than it was cut. The board should have challenged other administrative moves, too. Whoever decided to put 58 people on the board deserves to get a spanking. Ian admitted in 2009 that attendance had been dropping since 2006. There was time to develop new repertoire, fundraising, marketing, administration strategies -- and slice costs sufficiently. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 4:51 p.m.

William Smith: Yes, opera singers are certainly more lithe today than they were half a century ago -- or a century ago. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 4:52 p.m.

Steven Bryant: Costumes can work wonders, although if San Diego Opera gives opera oratorio style a try, then costumes are academic. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 5:30 p.m.

THESE ARE THE REMAINING BOARD MEMBERS OF SAN DIEGO OPERA. According to Edward Wilensky, public relations director of the opera, here are the 30 people left on the board. When the vote to disband passed March 19, there were 58 members, 34 of whom were in attendance.

Now the board consists of the following: Carol Lazier, acting president; Robert Horsman, community outreach; David Kleinfeld, governance chair; Lori Walton, 50th anniversary; Joe Watkins, strategic planning chair, and Moses Urbano, Raffaella Belanich, David Brenner; Courtney Ann Coyle; Teresa Fischlowitz; Cheryl Fisher; Nathan Fletcher; Harry Hixson, Jr.; Julie Huston; John Ippolito; Ann Irwin; Margaret Jackson; Lynda Kerr.

Matthew Leivo; Alex Lukianov; Frances Marshall; Sarah Marsh-Rebelo; James Merritt; Anita Norton; Anne Otterson; Gloria Rasmussen; Zandra Rhodes; Colette Carson Royston; Linda Spuck and Tony Thornley.

The board meets again Monday, following a meeting of opera members -- who number around 800. The initial vote to disband was not legal, because the membership was not included in the decision. Therefore, a vote of the membership is critical.


Don Bauder April 23, 2014 @ 12:02 p.m.

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE RESIGNED FROM THE BOARD OF SAN DIEGO OPERA: Marsha Chandler, Lee Clark, Karen Cohn, Harry Cooper, Jennifer Greenfield, Abeer Hage, Julie Huston, Jeanne Jones, Ian Leisegang, Jeff Lipinsky, Mary Keough Lyman, Mary Lyons, Tom Melody, Karen Hassett Meyer, Teresa Norton, Luis Nunez, Tim Rafalovich, Claire Reiss, Jeremiah Robins, Colette Royston, Ellen Scripps, Karen Sedgwick-Tyler, Pam Slater-Price, Iris Strauss, Harry Suh, Debbie Turner, Danitza Villanueva, Lori Walton, Sheryl White, and Faye Wilson.

I reported some of these resignations earlier. Best, Don Bauder


Wabbitsd April 24, 2014 @ 2:23 p.m.

Hey, Don, you have Julie Huston as on the board AND off the board.

I'd like to ask if you know why Slater-Price resigned. Do you think she's just tired of it all, or was she in on the shenanigans?


Don Bauder April 26, 2014 @ 1:48 p.m.

Wabbitsd: There was about a 12-hour time difference between the gathering of the list of board members and the list of those who resigned. The last information I have is that Julie Huston resigned.

If the members vote Monday to keep the opera going at least through 2015, and the board, viewing the donations coming in, believes it will go ahead, I would hope at least a few of those who resigned will come back. However, as discussed, the board is still too large to be effective. It would be a great gesture if some who resigned gave money.

I don't know why Slater-Price resigned. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker April 22, 2014 @ 8:14 p.m.

When I think back over this past opera season, I remember that there was a group of women who I believe were called the "Angels", who were an investment group and who had pledged to support the 50th Anniversary of the SD opera, the 2015 season.

I wonder if anyone would know if this group is still actively supporting the SD Opera, or if they folded when the word came down from Mr. Campbell.

The amazing thing was that in the final program, they were still listed as being sponsors of the 2015 50th Anniversary season--they may even have been listed as such on the cover. Which makes me wonder even more about the timing of the announcement of the "closure".


Anon92067 April 22, 2014 @ 8:50 p.m.

You are thinking of the Dow Divas. A large number of those women are the ones who have resigned. But the group did give a large sum to the 50th anniversary season. Presumably that amount, I think perhaps $500,000, is still available should they choose to use it that way.


eastlaker April 22, 2014 @ 9:09 p.m.

Thank you! That is the group. I wonder what will happen with the remainder of the group and the fund.


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 10:04 p.m.

eastlaker: Since a large number of the Dow Divas have resigned, you are posing a very good question. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 10:02 p.m.

Anon92067: The Dow Divas have been a powerful force. I certainly hope that the sum they gave for the 50th season can still be tapped. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 22, 2014 @ 10 p.m.

eastlaker: But there are other factors that suggest the ruling clique had this in mind several years ago. After all, it was their deliberate strategy to keep the staff, much of the board, and the citizenry uninformed. It is a nagging question. Did this come on suddenly -- or was it plotted some years ago? Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 23, 2014 @ 3:12 p.m.

The closing certainly was slapdash and opportunist, I can't believe these Opera people wouldn't sing out any secret, would end with Massenet, or blow their own possible retirement on extravagant productions. We'll know more soon.


Don Bauder April 23, 2014 @ 3:30 p.m.

Psycholizard: Good points. If you go to www.sdopera.com, click "company," click "document library," and read the reports, you will be astonished at the apparent severity of the picture -- and amazed at the strategy of keeping everything quiet until it was sprung on the board March 19.

Didn't the insiders realize that this secretive approach would enrage some of the board members -- and the community? Who told the insider clique to do it this way? How could they have planned the 2015 and, tentatively, the 2016 season if they knew things were as bad as portrayed on that website? Why didn't the leadership start strategizing differently five years ago? Is the suddenness of the decision related to Ian Campbell's desire to go to New York to be with his new girlfriend? Did the clique want an abrupt end so the Campbells would get more money than they would get in the case of a bankruptcy? Why did Ian Campbell and Faye Wilson effectively kill the board committee that was planning changes to confront the problems? These questions and others must be answered. Best, Don Bauder


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