San Diego Civic Theatre, soon to be the former home of the opera
  • San Diego Civic Theatre, soon to be the former home of the opera
  • Image by OperaSmorg/Wikipedia
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

According to the U-T, the San Diego Opera will close down at the end of this season after 49 years. The board voted 33 to 1 for the shuttering today (March 19).

Ian Campbell, general and artistic director, said, "We saw we faced an insurmuntable financial hurdle going forward."

The option was going down gracefully or trying to go forward and ultimately filing for bankruptcy. This is very personal for me. For over 30 years, I was on the board and the advisory board of San Diego Opera, and I was a donor. Every time I gave a speech, the group would give $200 to the opera. I raised from $5000 on the low side to $12,500 on the high side over the years.

The opera had reduced its schedule in recent years, particularly after the 2008 economic meltdown, as donations and attendance dropped.

San Diego Opera was generally considered among the nation's top ten opera companies. Stars such as Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, and Renée Fleming have sung there during the years. This is a sad day for the arts and for San Diego.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


monaghan March 19, 2014 @ 4:05 p.m.

I am shocked and stunned. Given the depth of the bench of rich people in this town, it seems to me they would ante-up to sustain and grow this absolutely first-rate, truly world-class organization.

The San Diego Opera is just concluding a spectacular season. I saw the production of Verdi's "Masked Ball" on Sunday with an international roster of sublime singers and Italian music director, a full orchestra and chorus and ballet dancers. I was looking forward to 2015 and planning for it with my regular companions, some of whom were children.

Opera is expensive. But when it is done masterfully, as Ian Campbell always does it, it is unlike any other theatrical experience. Surely this decision can be reversed.


Don Bauder March 19, 2014 @ 6:45 p.m.

monaghan: I am two months short of 78 years old, and when I got the news, I cried like a baby. It was like losing a son or a daughter.

This news will travel fast, just as the demise of New York City Opera and the problems of the Minnesota Symphony went far and wide. The fact that donors were getting scarce is chilling and a sad reflection on the society.

Hundreds of millions of public dollars for sports palaces for billionaires but no money for San Diego Opera, the institution that San Diego was recognized far and wide for? What's is the problem? Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 6:56 a.m.

viewer: Yes, opera, symphonic, and chamber music originated in Europe as far back as the 1500s, even before. But I don't think it would thrive in the U.S. now if the bulk of our immigrants came from Europe. Serious music is surviving in Euorpe, but has its problems, too.

Today, European opera companies are doing far-out performances to put more people in the seats. For example, San Diego Opera just did a magnificent Masked Ball. A couple of years ago in a European production of the same opera, the conspirators plotted the murder while all were sitting on potties. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 20, 2014 @ 10:59 a.m.

Opera exports to the Orient, and prospers in Latin America.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 12:14 p.m.

Psycholizard: Zarzuelas are very popular in Spain and some Latin American countries. I am not aware that opera so big there. Best, Don Bauder


Susan Luzzaro March 19, 2014 @ 6:32 p.m.

This is terrible and a huge loss to San Diego and to the city's profile. The recently performed Elixir of Love was terrific. The stage, the singers, the musicians...I filed it in my memory as a great day thanks to the San Diego Opera. Every day I play, if I were a millionaire, and today I play it again.


Don Bauder March 19, 2014 @ 6:49 p.m.

Susan Luzzaro: It is a huge loss. I think of all the people who gave their time and their money to San Diego Opera through the years. Some are gone now -- as the opera will soon be.

San Diego Opera WAS San Diego. What happened to the support? Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 19, 2014 @ 7:30 p.m.

Gail Stoorza-Gill: Perhaps operas could be put on oratorio-style. No costumes, no sets, singers in ordinary clothes. James Levine did that in Cleveland when he was in his early 20s.

George Frideric Handel put on his Italian operas -- many of the greatest ever written -- in London in the baroque era. But when the public got tired of Italian opera, and he almost went bankrupt, he switched to oratorios in English -- no sets, costumes, action -- and filled the house again.

However, Ian Campbell and the opera's board members are very shrewd people. My guess is that they considered every alternative. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh March 19, 2014 @ 8:04 p.m.

Is it possible, just possible, that this was done to shake up the city? If they went out begging and telling a tale of woe, the whole thing might have been dismissed as just more alarmist talk, and a fundraising ploy. Now it is time to face reality, and unless some big bucks donors come through, it will be gone.

The symphony has been taken care of in perpetuity by that $110 million grant of "wonderful" Irv Jacobs. He and wife also lavishly support the La Jolla Music Society, and of course they also support the UCSD music and drama programs. There must be some other billionaire out there who could take care of this financial cliff with one big check. But who might that be?


Don Bauder March 19, 2014 @ 8:39 p.m.

Visduh: Yes, there are several San Diegans who could plunk down a huge amount of money. Jacobs and his wife are opera-goers, and he is still a billionaire, despite his generous gifts to groups such as the symphony.

The trouble is that no arts group can live on donations alone. There have to be people in the seats. San Diego Opera got almost 40% of its revenue at the box office. Donors had to come up with the rest, and over the last three years, the board realized that there was "donor fatigue." No doubt some donors died and did not give to the opera in their wills. The problem with serious arts of all kinds -- performing and visual -- is that young people are not interested, in the main, and the old people are dying out. San Diego just put on a magnificent Masked Ball by Verdi. But 25% of the seats were empty.

I remember that as a board and advisory board member of San Diego Opera, the management from the mid-'70s to the early '90s, would assure us that as the old people died off, new people age 45 or so would take up opera and take their places. By the '90s, however, management was no longer saying that. It was obvious then that the young and middle-aged people were not coming. People no longer turned to opera at age 45.

That is not simply true of opera. It is true of other performing arts; opera companies are dying, and symphonies are struggling. So are art museums.

Ian Campbell many times said that one of the biggest blows suffered by San Diego Opera was the suspension of music education in the schools.

The print media business has suffered the same phenomenon. It was obvious in the 1980s that young people weren't reading. The market was slowly dying. Some saw it at the Union-Tribune earlier than others did -- and, unfortunately, top management personnel were among the last to read the tea leaves. Best, Don Bauder


danfogel March 20, 2014 @ 11:07 a.m.

Several years ago, around 2002 or so, we were in Italy. One of the things my wife wanted to do was to see an opera. One of the things we learned while we were there is that at least in Italy, which apparently is where it all started, opera is heavily subsidised by the government. Several years ago, the Met began broadcasting live HD video transmissions to movie theatres around the world. I understand that several of the major European housed have started doing the same. Maybe that's future of opera.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 12:23 p.m.

danfogel: Yes, opera is heavily subsidized in Europe. In the U.S., we subsidize professional sports teams. (Actually, San Diego Opera and other performing arts group got money from the transient occupancy tax, but it didn't help that much in the case of the opera.)

My wife and I have seen several live at the Met HD videos in theaters, even though we have to drive 3 hours to get to a theater that shows them. They were wonderful. The Met's management wonders if the live broadcasts are cannibalizing seat purchases, but as I said, the Met's decline in attendance is not that much. Best, Don Bauder


Cpridmore March 19, 2014 @ 10:07 p.m.

I am a young opera lover in my 20's with many friends in the chorus, and I am absolutely heartbroken by this news. As a music educator, I have taken 83 kids to see the opera as a part of their amazing outreach program. I just took 31 kids to see "A Masked Ball." What an incredible thing to witness- to see the opera come alive in front of them, more powerful than the images in the pages of their books- to hear the sound of a well trained voice wrap around them, more powerful than a YouTube video I can pull up to illustrate our lessons. I saw 31 pairs of eyes light up with the wonder and mystery of it all. This is such a tragic loss for our community, for our already imperiled music education programs in this city, and for the many musicians employed by the opera. There are truly no words.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 7:06 a.m.

Cpridmore: Yours is a heartening story. As I have watched young audiences snubbing opera for several decades, I have often thought that tastes could possibly change quickly -- that young and middle-aged people would suddenly go back to opera, and symphonic and chamber music.

I went to many San Diego Opera performances for young people, and marveled how they seemed to take to the performances. But when schools dropped music education, attracting that audience became much more difficult.

Maybe as young people realize the ear damage they are suffering in listening to rock and other forms of music, they will seek enjoyment in the classics. But I am probably dreaming. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 20, 2014 @ 2:17 a.m.

I don't like the smell of this. It's certainly possible to perform Opera on some scale in San Diego. Usually Opera is sold out, but even if 25% of the seats are empty, thousands attended. Read the news carefully, we're told they're quitting even though they can meet all debts, and their last season wasn't on a tight budget, instead they performed some big warhorses with some expensive established stars. This suggests that if they scaled back on expenses, they might break even.

Opera has enchanted audiences around the world, if we count the new converts in the Orient, It may well be more popular than ever. I'm certain that Opera will return to San Diego should this organization fold. I'm not certain that we're not hustled like the televangelist tearfully telling the faithful that the revival tent will be repossessed unless donations come in.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 7:11 a.m.

Psycholizard: Last night I sent an email to Ian Campbell with some questions, including the one you pose. I hope he comes back to me reasonably soon.

I don't think San Diego is being hustled. The bottom line is attendance; an opera company can't be sustained on large donations alone. I hope to get some statistics on attendance in the last ten years. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 7:49 a.m.

Stephanie Anne Freeman: Yours is a beautiful post. I feel the same way. One thing that bothers me is this: look at all the opera companies that are still going, albeit with problems.

Why is Houston still thriving? Why is Lyric Opera in Chicago still going strong? The Metropolitan Opera in New York has some problems, but it still is strong. After 49 years, why could not San Diegans support its opera company? This is a reflection on the City that just elected a mayor who wants to build a football stadium for an out-of-town billionaire family, but the opera company -- one of the ten biggest and best in the U.S. -- cannot get sufficient public support.

I hope you will write again with more of your heartfelt remembrances. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 7:54 a.m.

Sarka-Joanae Miller: The board was considering this move for three years, but to my knowledge, the word didn't get out in San Diego. With more than 30 people apparently in on the deliberations, it is unusual that something didn't leak.

I was hoping that when Fleming sang the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl, people would realize what beautiful voices opera can present. No such luck, at least in San Diego. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 20, 2014 @ 10:55 a.m.

These people should resign confessing their failure, and turn the organisation over to others. "End it with our heads held high." sounds a lot like suicide to me. I wonder what their books really look like, and whether the stipulations of various endowments make it possible to pay generous severance packages to the leaving management, while they move on to more lucrative positions. I do know Mr. Campbell is a master of self promotion, and has made a name for himself in ads supposedly promoting the Opera, while I can't name single singer or conductor under contract.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 12:28 p.m.

Psycholizard: As someone who was close to San Diego Opera for 30 years, I can't fault management. The books were balanced for years, and I know very astute people on the board who would have noticed if something was amiss. The last couple of years were the killers -- not enough bodies in seats or donations. Best, Don Bauder


monaghan March 20, 2014 @ 4:15 p.m.

Ian Campbell is a master of spectacular opera. Using Campbell's familiar accented voice on radio ads or in robo-calls to subscribers to promote Opera performances always struck me as a brilliant strategy. If your memory is as bad as you claim, you will not miss the San Diego Opera when it's gone.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 7:53 p.m.

monaghan: Some think Campbell was a master marketer, others think he was marketing himself as much as the opera. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 7:29 a.m.

monaghan: In many respects, Ian IS the opera, and therefore he has to accept barbs that are shot his way. Best, Don Bauder


newuser March 20, 2014 @ 12:48 p.m.

They did a great job price gouging this morning. Tickets went from $45 to $155 in the mezzanine in 10 minutes. Yea, let's blame the younger generation for not taking an interest in the things that are inaccessible to them. Oh wait, there are still seats available for $45, you just have to be OK with an "obstructed view".

Hopefully someone better can come in and fill the void.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 2:47 p.m.

newuser: Others have complained about ticket prices. San Diego is not a high-income town. It is a moderate-income, high-cost town. Maybe the pricing structure was not well planned. Best, Don Bauder


monaghan March 20, 2014 @ 4:23 p.m.

Opera is phenomenally grand and expensive to produce -- singers, sets, costumes, live orchestra, dancers. No question the tickets are dear. At the San Diego Opera, the ticket is worth it. The experience is memorable. There will never be "someone better:" there will just be "the void."


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 8 p.m.

monaghan: Oh yes, opera's problem everywhere is the high price to produce it, and the almost astronomical price to produce it very well. But that is a question: could San Diego Opera have cut costs and stayed alive? Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 20, 2014 @ 1:15 p.m.

The only way to "leave with your head held high" is to hang yourself. If you think this can be done so cleanly, you may be mistaken. Many donated to the Opera in long term bequests, in the belief that their money would support music. If I were them I would sue to get my money back and donate to a new company. If recent events in our City prove anything, it's that intelligent, well meaning people can be swindled. Anyone who gave real money to the Opera should get an accountant and a lawver. And please, please start a new company if this one can't be saved.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 8:02 p.m.

Psycholizard: I don't know whether those who gave long-term bequests could sue or not. My guess is that the opera wrote protection from lawsuits into contracts with long-term givers. Best, Don Bauder


Joaquin_de_la_Mesa March 20, 2014 @ 1:32 p.m.

There's a parallel discussion of this question going on over on Garrett Harris's classical music blog.

I think what's dying is not opera, but money-saturated "Grand Opera." Meaning, penthouse offices, huge staffs, big executive salaries, the out-of-town singing talent model, etc.

Opera can no longer be a vehicle for all of that. Not outside of New York.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 2:52 p.m.

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa: Your point is well taken. Could the sumptuous production of Masked Ball been staged at half the price? Could someone try opera oratorio-style? Could the sets be sparer? We need answers. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 8:05 p.m.

viewer: I don't know about any removals. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 7:32 a.m.

viewer: Possibly there was a technical glitch. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92107 March 20, 2014 @ 2:02 p.m.

First the failure of Balboa Park Centennial, then the failure of the San Diego Opera , Manchester is changing the San Diego culture to yield to his Playboy lifestyle.

No one has produced more destruction of San Diego's cultural values, politics and economy than Manchester, using his media power to become the new Plunderer-In-Chief.


monaghan March 20, 2014 @ 4:31 p.m.

For pete's sake, don't diss Papa Doug before he has a chance to think about making a Grand Gesture to save Grand Opera in his hometown. He is the proprietor of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, after all. It could work!


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

monaghan: That's a thought, but I don't think it's a practical thought. Best, Don Bauder


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

Anon92107: San Diego may become a laughingstock: its opera goes out of business for lack of financial support, and it elects a mayor who wants to give a massive stadium gift to a billionaire out-of-town family. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 8:09 p.m.

viewer: I'm not sure I understand the remark. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 20, 2014 @ 4:40 p.m.

Don - I am having trouble separating fact from fiction. If I don't like going downtown anymore because drinking is the same as being a patron of the arts now, yes I agree with you, education in America has failed (been dumped on/out)


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 8:12 p.m.

shirleyberan: There are some purported patrons of the arts who attend to drink champagne and be seen in sparkling attire. That's always been true. Has education failed? We know the answer. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 20, 2014 @ 5:10 p.m.

And Don - was 2008 a recession? I have never asked you but it felt like a depression to me.


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 8:15 p.m.

shirleyberan: The period that began in late 2007, went through 2008 and into early 2009, has been called the Great Recession. It was the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Technically, the 2007-2009 plunge was not a depression, but it was close. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 20, 2014 @ 8:16 p.m.

viewer: Both Ian and his ex-wife Ann made extremely good salaries. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 7:35 a.m.

viewer: Hopefully, the relevant issues will be exposed before this is over. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 20, 2014 @ 10:35 p.m.

When I first heard of this, my first thought was a crooked scheme by management to cash out the Opera endowment to pay exorbitant severance packages, then move on to swindle the next suckers. Nothing I've heard since has made me think anything different.


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

Psycholizard: I have not seen information on severance packages. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker March 21, 2014 @ 8:17 a.m.

The scenario that is playing out in my head shows the very comfortable and comfortable-with-each-other group of insider supporters realizing that Mr. Campbell was thinking about retiring. The group has a collective shudder to think that someone new would have to enter into their august circle. Who would this person be? Would they recognize just how wonderful everyone is?

Would bumptious newcomers disturb the pleasant atmosphere?

What a horrible thought!

'Let's just call it a day...we can organize fundraisers for some good cause at the golf club or the yacht club when we want to get dressed up, and we can hire the musicians really cheaply now!!!'

I think it is a travesty of a sham of a farce of two travesties, to paraphrase Woody Allen.

At the very least, three years ago, there could have been a search for Mr. Campbell's successor. Someone much younger, energetic, willing to go out to all the schools and fill seats, even if it would be for nothing--allowing young people to be introduced to the opera in person.

There should have been a massive information campaign regarding the state of affairs, instead of keeping it a secret for the insiders. It is all very well and good for these insiders to declare they are tired of it all--but it is deeply irresponsible to implode everything and waltz off into the moonlight.

Not very honorable, to my way of thinking. Sort of like an operatic hero or heroine sitting up from the fainting couch on which they had recently collapsed, checking a watch or cell phone, and announcing--"ohhh, darlings, it's time for me to go--my broker has some thoughts regarding some stronger positions. Don't think I'll be back! Toodles!!" And then exiting.

With the audience in the lurch.


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 8:46 a.m.

eastlaker: You have raised some good questions. I am trying to get answers to them. Best, Don Bauder


Ponzi March 21, 2014 @ 9:04 a.m.

This is disappointing news. The loss of the opera creates another void in the creative offerings of San Diego. Why does San Diego face such difficulty nurturing its arts and culture?


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 11:29 a.m.

Ponzi: There are several factors. San Diego's median family income is moderately above the nation's, but its cost of living, particularly housing, is among the highest in the nation. There are a lot of extremely rich people who retire to San Diego, or have one of their multiple homes in the county, but keep a low profile and don't support the arts.

San Diego Opera may have raised ticket prices too high for this market. And, unfortunately, there are not as many so-called culture vultures in San Diego as in many large markets. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 21, 2014 @ 10:34 a.m.

If....and I don't have evidence but I have reason to suspect, someone was persuaded to donate recently, and was not told that he was donating for generous pensions and severance pay, but was told that donation was for continuing programming, that person was defrauded. Mr. Campbell has confessed he's been thinking of this for years, and not told donors the whole story.

This is loathsome, but the horrific slander he perpetrates against Opera and this City, that there is not love or money to make Opera live here, enrages me more. The great Operas we enjoy premiered to crowds no larger than what we get here, and the great geniuses who created them composed for a tiny pittance compared to the great cash out Mr. Campbell receives. Ignore the growlings of this monster, Opera is made of love, not money, and lives in this city.


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 11:36 a.m.

Psycholizard: I would think that large donors who gave recently were warned that the opera was in perilous financial condition. Lawyers should have mandated such a statement.

I don't agree that Campbell's statements constitute "horrific slander." The financial and economic problems he is mentioning are hitting almost every opera company. The crash of 2008 had its repercussions.

As I said, I am trying to get answers to your questions, and those of others. I emailed Campbell the evening of March 19; this morning, I cut down the list of questions sharply. I still have not heard a word. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker March 21, 2014 @ 12:05 p.m.

Forgive me for saying this, but despite your long acquaintanceship and perhaps even friendship with Mr. Campbell, he probably won't be answering anyone's questions. It just might be too uncomfortable for him.

That is what I think it is all about--comfort, comfort zones, staying in them, making sure everyone involved gets to go home in peace, having enjoyed as much opera as they want to, for their lifetime(s).

Because these are essentially the acts of VERY selfish people. They are not considering the current wider audience, the future audiences, the present musicians, those young people who will now never get the chance to be musicians, costume-designers and -makers, all the arts and trades that accompany opera.

It's "Oh, I'm tired of it! Time for something new...let's go on a cruise, or take that trip to London for the theatre...!"

Short-sighted. Self-centered. Insulting to those who actually thought these people cared for opera. Evidently they didn't, and it was all for show.


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 2:41 p.m.

eastlaker: In fact, Ian Campbell responded to my questions and gave me some financial information that has not been revealed elsewhere. I have written a piece and submitted it. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker March 21, 2014 @ 3:49 p.m.

I guess that could be considered good news. However, I think, if he and the inner circle planned this for a few years, and it sounds like they did--it is extremely deceptive and irresponsible.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 7:29 a.m.

eastlaker: Hold on. There seems to be a misconception. Campbell and the opera did not keep all the financial problems quiet. I wrote a Reader column February 11, 2009 in which Campbell told of the opera's financial woes, and some steps to battle them. This column covered other arts groups in San Diego, and their economizing strategies. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92107 March 21, 2014 @ 12:18 p.m.

Don, Manchester is the Emperor of San Diego.

With his media empire, he is the one person in San Diego who controls the fate of the San Diego Opera, as well as the Balboa Park Centennial.

If he won't do it, they won't happen. It's that simple.


Don Bauder March 21, 2014 @ 2:45 p.m.

Anon92107: Are you suggesting the emperor has no clothes? Best, Don Bauder


Anon92107 March 21, 2014 @ 3:17 p.m.

Yup, he drove Filner out of office with the most outrageously deranged rants by his U-T vassal-editors that I have ever read, then he elected his new Vassal-Mayor Faulconer who made the stupidest plea for the Opera anyone could while promoting a new Manchester stadium at the same time (as reported by the Reader).
San Diego has just plain melted down because of too many plunderers.


Psycholizard March 21, 2014 @ 4:21 p.m.

That was satire about Faulconer supporting the Opera....Almost factual news.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 7:32 a.m.

Anon92107: That piece about the mayor was a satirical one by Mencken in his "Almost Factual News" humor column. But you are right about too many plunderers. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92107 March 22, 2014 @ 1:15 p.m.

Phew! Thanks for confirming that was "satire" because I thought he was another zombie republican politician controlled by the Pope Doug Oligarchy.

But I'm really not sure if a Vassal-Mayor is any better than a zombie mayor because he is still pimping for Manchester Stadium.

And they don't really give a damn about the Opera and the Centennial, these social disasters never would have happened in "America's Finest City" even if that mythological city ever existed.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 2:07 p.m.

Anon92107: Yes, the corporate welfare crowd, which runs San Diego, does not give a damn about the opera or the centennial. They care about the Chargers. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 21, 2014 @ 2:51 p.m.

We can remember productions at the San Diego Opera that were hardly opulent. I remember Don Giovanni's descent into Hell expressed by an badly focused red spotlight. The stage action was puzzling, but the singing was credible, so who cares?

This City's Opera paid the Campbells $800,000 a year, presumably because someone was suckered into believing that this town was ready for big time Opera, for Mr. Campbell to turn around and say this town can't support any Opera is hard to take, especially when it might be a cover story to cash out the long term bequests and put them in their own pocket. 'Horrific slander' might seem hot prose, but I avoid profanity.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:01 a.m.

Psycholizard: In my new blog item, in which I have quotes from Campbell and some statistics that have not been revealed before, some of your concerns are addressed. Best, Don Bauder


Ponzi March 21, 2014 @ 8:53 p.m.

I know that Helen Copley was very fond of the San Diego Opera. I also know that David attended the opera and shared his mother’s support. I realize that David Copley’s estate continues to be administered as assets are liquidated. I believe that a substantial portion of his estate was bequeathed to local arts. I don’t think I’m the only one that has thought of this, but would it be possible for the opera to request some guidance from the Copley estate if they may be named as one of the beneficiaries? Just speculation.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:06 a.m.

Ponzi: David and Helen Copley, often through the James S. Copley Foundation, gave generously to the opera. However, David's big interest was the visual arts. The Copleys were fairly big donors, but not in the league with Muriel Gluck, to the best of my memory.

I don't know if the Copley estate is open to new beneficiaries. I rather doubt it. Best, Don Bauder


Ponzi March 22, 2014 @ 10:04 a.m.

Have any charitable beneficiaries of David Copley's estate been announced?


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 12:14 p.m.

Ponzi: Some of the beneficiaries have been named. Unfortunately, the items in the Copley Library (of great historical value) and Helen's art (some great originals by artists such as Corot) were auctioned off. Thus far, San Diego has not gotten much. Hopefully, that will change. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 21, 2014 @ 10:42 p.m.

A second hand source claimed the Opera had $12 million net assets less than two years ago. And had twelve million yearly income. If someone can find full numbers please share them. Ian Campbell also worked for other companies while under contract with San Diego, I would find his fees while on loan interesting also, might be the Campbells were making over a million a year.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:08 a.m.

Psycholizard: The long blog item that I submitted last night, but has not yet been posted, goes over those numbers in some detail. I trust it will be posted today. Best, Don Bauder


KLoEditor March 22, 2014 @ 1:05 a.m.

I've never been to the opera, not like a lot of the people commenting on this thread. But I was proud to say there was an opera in my hometown of San Diego. And perhaps, as an outsider, I can offer a different perspective, not as personal as your own. I look at this tragic situation and see what the future holds for San Diego, on so many levels, and it ain't pretty.

The death of art and music education (still vibrant when I was growing up in a working class neighborhood) is the death of culture, and that's the way the overlords of this city want it to be. The Inglorious Toad didn't lift a finger to save the Opera, just as he didn't try to save the Centennial, allowing his cronies to enrich themselves on that luxe commission, preferring to blame Bob Filner for what he didn't have the leadership to do, and mince away. No, the Toad's past is our future writ large; watergun fights and Lilygate.

By the way, Don, the loathsome little bat has been hanging out over at Mencken's enjoying the demise of the opera and babbling on about how your threads are not worthy of his valuable time and thoughts. One must feel sorry for bats with such inadequacies.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:15 a.m.

KLoEditor: It is pretty sick that Bob Filner is blamed for anything that goes wrong, when the blame actually should go to his predecessor(s). But that is San Diego.

Sanders, now head of the Chamber of Commerce, was asked about the opera. From his response, I wasn't sure he even knew what it was. This is what San Diego can expect as the corporate welfare crowd retakes the city, and plunders its treasury for pro sports stadium subsidies and other uplifting activities. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 22, 2014 @ 2:02 a.m.

Stop calling Todd Gloria "Toad", real toads, unlike Mr. Gloria, have a backbone, and resent the comparison.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:18 a.m.

KLoEditor: Yes, Psycholizard drew a good picture of the toad. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:25 a.m.

John Eldon: Yes, the American education system failed us. So did American culture. As Elvis said, "You ain't nuthin' but a hound dog." Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:29 a.m.

Gloria Smestad: This closure wasn't done in private. I have alluded to my February 11, 2009 column, i which Ian Campbell discussed how the opera had to make slashes to survive in the crumbling economy. Anybody could see that the number of operas had dropped as well as the number of performances of those operas. The board and staff pushed San Diego's moneybags hard for donations.

One could argue that the board should have just come out and warned that unless donations and attendance picked up, the company would go out of business. But there is an old saying in business: once you reveal you are thinking about bankruptcy, you are in bankruptcy. Best, Don Bauder


eastlaker March 22, 2014 @ 9:53 p.m.

While not wishing to poke at wounds, I do believe that mentioning difficulties in 2009 and shutting down the opera in 2014 leaves much middle ground in a mysterious haze.

Call me harsh, but I think that measures could have been taken, measures that the public would have understood--and SD Opera could have continued. I do hope something can be salvaged, for the sake of the musicians and for the overall health of culture in San Diego. We don't have to be reduced to a stereotype of louts in flip-flops any more than the San Diego Opera needs to disappear because ONE arts leader and the ducklings that follow him have decided that they are just too, too exhausted to work another season. Again, very selfish. But I await your article. (Maybe it will be the cover story, which is why they are waiting).

I really appreciate your wisdom and your knowledge on a wide range of subjects. I think that perhaps you know Mr. Campbell so well that you are very sympathetic to what he says, whereas I only know his voice and his face in photographs. It is perhaps easier for me to be critical, as I believe that those who are in positions of leadership owe it to the living breathing civilization we have to maintain such institutions as the SD Opera. (Too many local leaders have been a great disappointment).

We certainly don't need more "leaders" who make sure they get their large share and then leave an institution in a state of collapse. That happens far too often.


Don Bauder March 25, 2014 @ 4:28 p.m.

eastlaker: Yours is a thoughtful post. Of course, if the woes were pondered for three years, why weren't alternative survival strategies presented to the board? The quickness with which this was done makes me suspect that Ian and Ann were worried about their retirement funds; that's why they moved so fast, and so uncommunicatively. I hope I am wrong. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 8:34 a.m.

John Eldon: One could argue that some cuts were not made; the company could have moved out of its aerie downtown to cheaper quarters, for example. The opera could have slashed the quality of its performances, but that may have driven away audiences even more.

I think we must face facts: as a serious culture center, San Diego is a good football town. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 22, 2014 @ 9:33 a.m.

I'm waiting for those numbers, but I don't buy the story that Opera can't live here, simply because we can't pay people $800,000 plus yearly. My degree is Music History, and I can assure you that if Mozart's producers insisted on "quality" like our local productions, those operas wouldn't exist. They were cast and performed by small town people using sets and costumes on hand. Theaters weren't large, the musicians weren't professional virtuosos, but servants moonlighting with their masters sitting in. But the music was completely their own, the cadenzas weren't learned from a score, but came straight from the heart. The result lives today.

More people attended San Diego Opera this year than lived in Mozart's Salzburg.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 12:37 p.m.

Psycholizard: Mozart's operas were written for smaller halls and smaller orchestras. Ditto Handel operas. But San Diego Opera had to go with the hand that it was dealt -- the Civic Center, which is better for the 19th century grand operas that dominate these days: Aida, Boheme, Carmen, Tosca, Traviata, Butterfly, Barber of Seville, Rigoletto. (The Barber can be done in a smaller hall.)

If SD Opera were to try to put on baroque and classical era operas (Monteverdi, Handel, Vivaldi, A. Scarlatti, Telemann, Mozart, Haydn, Gluck) in a smaller venue, I do not know what or where it would be. This is coming from a person, me, who believes that three of Mozart's operas (Figaro, Flute and Giovanni) and three of Handel's (Alcina, Julius Caesar in Egypt and Rinaldo) are among the best ten operas ever written.

Ian Campbell tried a couple of Handels -- Ariodante and Caesar -- and while my wife and I were ecstatic, I don't think the audience was. Campbell put on the great Mozarts, including Cosi, and they did get good receptions and good audiences. Best, Don Bauder


Ponzi March 22, 2014 @ 10:09 a.m.

There is a good story in this mornings (3/22/14) Los Angeles Times by their music critic, Mark Swed. Some excerpts:

"So what gives? Where are the civic leaders in a town with the motto "America's finest city"? ...San Diego has a thriving artistic community. Its Museum of Contemporary Art is on a major expansion. This is a theater town. There is a vibrant university life."

"But venues are a problem. Civic Theatre is a barn. The symphony plays in a reconverted movie palace now bizarrely buried in an office building and with ghastly acoustics. The La Jolla Symphony uses a sports stadium on the UCSD campus. SummerFest's auditorium at the Museum of Contemporary Art is dry and dull."

"A new mayor took office in San Diego this year. Do something.",0,7530350.story#ixzz2wiEUyEUO


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 12:40 p.m.

Ponzi: The new mayor will do something -- for the San Diego Chargers. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 10:46 a.m.

Location, location, they've threatened that we wouldn't have classical music here before. It's just not gonna happen, it will reorganize.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 12:44 p.m.

shirleyberan: It would have to be a new company. The previous one has checked out. Decidedly. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 11:05 a.m.

Don - What's in the old gymnasium in Balboa Park? Was great acoustics I thought, basketballs bouncing off the walls.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 12:47 p.m.

shirleyberan: I can't imagine a gymnasium would be a satisfactory venue. Best, Don Bauder


KLoEditor March 22, 2014 @ 3:07 p.m.

The gymnasium was converted into a museum.


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 11:48 a.m.

Psycholizard - What about Old Globe? To small? Nice central location though, out of downtown party glut.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 12:51 p.m.

shirleyberan: How many does the Old Globe seat? ECPAC in El Cajon has superb acoustics, and it is not being used, tragically, for serious music. The one in Escondido is supposed to have good acoustics; I have never been to a concert there. Certain operas (say, baroque and some classical) could be performed, possibly, in these two venues. I don't know about stage accommodations, though. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 12:56 p.m.

shirleyberan: Another problem is that, last I heard, Sherwood in La Jolla will be torn down so the modern art museum can be expanded. The chamber music society has had plans for a new building, but I understand there is a glitch there. We learned in the 1980s, though, that La Jollans won't drive to El Cajon. Afraid of being ambushed by Indiana, I suppose. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 1:11 p.m.

Don - if I lived in La Jolla I wouldn't leave it either.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 2:12 p.m.

shirleyberan: Is La Jolla really that great? Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 2:22 p.m.

Don - when's the last time you spent time at the beach? It's been a while for me as well but I find culture and calm at the cove watching sea lions. Downtown offers less and less.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 3:57 p.m.

shirleyberan: Do you wear a gas mask? Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 2:53 p.m.

James's office was at Fifth and Palm 10plus years. I believe I object to restructure as stated, am answering back this week, hopefully others say so too.


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 3:22 p.m.

Don - did you mean $Baroke? I'm a Jazz fan.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 3:59 p.m.

shirleyberan: Baroque was the era from about 1600 to 1760. Some put 1600 in the Renaissance category. No jazz in either era. Best, Don Bauder


KLoEditor March 22, 2014 @ 3:33 p.m.

I think we must face facts: as a serious culture center, San Diego is a good football town. Best, Don Bauder

Very close to the mark. The overlords here are determined to make this a party town, as low class, coarse and vulgar as possible.

I wanted to share a memory with you, Don, since you feel this event personally. As I said in my earlier post, I have never attended the opera, not because I don't appreciate it but because I never had the means. I don't know near as much about it as some of you posting on this thread, but I did listen to the popular bits all my life, in music class, in movies and TV, and watched when they were shown on KPBS. My favorite is Madam Butterfly, now I wished I had made more of an effort to see it when it was staged here.

Anyway, the memory I want to share with you is that when my son was in elementary school up in Tierrasanta, at Kumeyaay, I would kill the time during the day volunteering at Logan Elementary, at that time the lowest ranked elementary schools in the district. This was during the Bersin years when all art and music education was banned in favor of compulsory reading and math, and bilingual education was not permitted. I would come in and tutor the Spanish-speaking kids every day.

One day as I entered the main building, there was a full house in the room that served as auditorium/cafeteria. All the kids were seated facing the other end of the room where an ensemble from the San Diego Opera was just beginning to perform. I stopped in my tracks and didn't move for the next however long it took them to perform their scene. It. Was. Stunning.

The children were mesmerized, as well, and part of my enjoyment was watching these professional singers/actors weave their magic on the audience. I was glad the children were well-behaved and that they enjoyed the performance, but to be honest, more glad that they didn't embarrass me or the school by acting out, and most glad of all that I was there, that I saw opera live, something I'd always wanted to do and here it was right in front of me, something I will never forget.

I think the long term remedy is obvious: Bring back music and art education from the youngest grades all the way through to graduation. How that happens, I don't know. But if it doesn't happen, we are doomed.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 4:05 p.m.

KLoEditor: Ian Campbell always said that the ending of music education in the schools hurt the opera about as much as anything. San Diego Opera sent young performers into the schools. And the kids WERE mesmerized. That was one thing that the opera had to cut back on when times got tough beginning in the 2008/2009 period.

Yes, the schools should reestablish music education. Ending it was a blow to San Diego's culture scene. If Bersin did it, as you say, I am not a bit surprised. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 22, 2014 @ 3:55 p.m.

My concern right now is for the millions in net assets that the company has on the books. In this order, the scores, with their irreplaceable markings, the costumes, which are replaceable, but expensive to make new, and the scenery, which matches the costumes. If these Items stay in town, a new company could perform in grand style very quickly. Should Ian Campbell pilfer them by selling them lowball to the Sultan of Dubai, or whatever hell he plans to leave us for, a priceless piece of local heritage will be lost. His grandiosity drove our Opera to the ground but if we can keep the productions, we'll get something.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 4:08 p.m.

Psycholizard: You will get those asset figures when the Reader gets around to printing the blog item that I submitted around 2:30 yesterday afternoon. I do not know the plans for the opera's current assets. I remember that when the symphony went bankrupt, the bankruptcy trustee sold the sheet music, and all kinds of hell was raised. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 4:16 p.m.

KLoEditor - I went to a production for the kids with my daughter's elementary school. We all loved it. Seems like it was in Spreckles building or somewhere other than civic center, about 15 years ago. I could never find anyone who wanted to go with me plus I cry too easy at good drama. (Seems like opera needs an opera house) How else do the kids dream big? It's about art and creativity. I saw Bersin in Sports Arena Target once. Superintendent of Schools/Education in title only.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 6:24 p.m.

shirleyberan: I know opera for children has been put on in the Spreckels Theatre. Possibly there's where you were. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 4:43 p.m.

Wait Nope, Never been to opera. We were at SD Symphony.


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 6:27 p.m.

shirleyberan: The symphony has a huge endowment thanks to Irwin Mark Jacobs and his wife. Also, symphony doesn't cost as much as opera. I do not know how well the symphony is doing in attendance. Since symphony musicians played in the opera orchestra, this will have an effect on some musicians' pocketbooks. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 22, 2014 @ 6:28 p.m.

shirleyberan: Sorry. The Lion King movie doesn't count as opera. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 6:37 p.m.

Not a movie, a production at the civic center.


Don Bauder March 24, 2014 @ 3:09 p.m.

shirleyberan: Production yes, opera no. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 22, 2014 @ 6:48 p.m.

It's time for the board to resign and turn over the Opera to a liquidation specialist, or better yet someone determined to continue. Experience ruining a company doesn't qualify anyone to decide where the assets go.

I don't know Mr. Campbell, but I know insanity, from this distance he seems a megalomaniac. If I'm right he believes the productions whose designs he controlled belong to him, and he wants to bring them with him to his next company. Wait and see. Why hasn't he resigned?


Don Bauder March 24, 2014 @ 3:12 p.m.

Psycholizard: Legally, Campbell could not take the San Diego Opera's assets to another job. Those assets do not belong to him. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 22, 2014 @ 6:53 p.m.

OK was a musical. We saw "Cats" at Escondido Arts Center. Whatever, I had my girl in tap and ballet when she was probably 3, then off and on with Balboa Park Jr. Theater. I did some there as a tike too. Psycholizard is so right, the pages and props need to be saved.


Don Bauder March 24, 2014 @ 3:13 p.m.

shirleyberan: "Cats" is not opera. It is a musical. Sorry. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 24, 2014 @ 3:16 p.m.

shirleyberan: Noted. Tyke is correct, too -- in fact, possibly preferred. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 23, 2014 @ 11:09 a.m.

Why haven't they resigned? Will we really let them eat the body of what they have killed?


Don Bauder March 24, 2014 @ 3:18 p.m.

Psycholizard. By "they" I assume you mean the board, possibly the Campbells. In either case, when the opera ceases to be, they will automatically be gone. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard March 24, 2014 @ 3:52 p.m.

I mean those entrusted with preserving Opera in this City, the Board and Management, who now believe they can't meet that duty. My first concern is for the physical assets, they would be sold at fire sale prices, but replaced at full price. The endowment investments will go to the lawyers I suspect, unless a liquidation specialist is put in charge.


Don Bauder March 25, 2014 @ 4:44 p.m.

Psycholizard: I don't know if the opera has formulated these plans. Best, Don Bauder


Sign in to comment