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David Bennett Named General Director Of San Diego Opera

March 12, 2015 1:11 p.m.

David Bennett Named General Director Of San Diego Opera

GUESTS:

David Bennett, general director, San Diego Opera

Carol Lazier, president, San Diego Opera board of directors

Related Story: David Bennett Named General Director Of San Diego Opera

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

OUR TOP STORY AFTER YEAR OF TRAUMA THAT MIGHT HAVE PUT THE CHEATING ON ZANTAC'S THE -- REEMERGED PRETTY NEW OPERA BOARD STATS THE COMPANY FROM THE EDGE OF COLLAPSE, RAISED $6 MILLION, IS PRESENTING A 50th ANNIVERSARY SEASON AND HAS NOW NAMED A NEW GENERAL DIRECTOR. DAVID BENNETT RECENTLY HEADED THE INNOVATIVE GOTHAM CHAMBER OPERA IN NEW YORK. ARRIVES HERE HAVING BEEN PRAISED FOR HIS ECLECTIC PRODUCTIONS AND HIS COLLABORATION WITH OTHER ARTS INSTITUTIONS PICTURING ME TO TALK ABOUT WHERE THE REINVENTED SAN DIEGO OPERA IS HEADING NEXT IS DAVID BENNETT. WELCOME.
THANK YOU.
ALSO YOUR CAROL -- SHE'S PRESIDENT OF THE SAN DIEGO OPERA. LOOKING TO SAN DIEGO DAVID.
THANK YOU. IT IS GOOD TO BE HERE.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO ACCLIMATE YOURSELF TO SAN DIEGO AND TO SOME OF THE AUDIENCE?
I KNOW THERE ARE TRADITIONS OF PRESENTING GRAND OPERA IN SAN DIEGO IN WONDERFUL WAYS, LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH THE BOARD AND STAFF IN WITH THE COMMUNITY TO FIND OUT WHAT IS THE MODEL FOR MOVING FORWARD IS THE FUTURE. ADOBE ACCOMPLISH CARBONATION OF PRODUCING OPERA AND OTHER THINKS. THE OTHER THINGS IS WHAT IS EXCITING AND I THINK WE'LL MOVE FORWARD TOGETHER IN A BOLDLY TO DETERMINE WHAT THAT IS.
DAVID GIVES A LITTLE BIT OF YOUR BACKGROUND IF YOU WOULD COME YOU WERE AN OPERA SINGER YOURSELF, A BARITONE.
I GREW UP IN THE MIDWEST, KANSAS CITY MINIMUM TWO TEXAS I WAS BASED IN TEXAS AS AN OPERA SINGER AND VOICE TEACHER. I DID THAT FOR ABOUT 10 OR 15 YEARS AND MY TENOR LIFE IS ALL -- I STUDIED MANAGEMENT WHICH WILL BE TOO DARK CITY AND HAVE BEEN IN THAT FIELD, SIDE OF THE DESK OF THE ARTS NOW SINCE 2001/2002.
CARE WHAT WAS IT ABOUT DAVID'S APPROACH TO OPPOSITE IMPRESS THE BOARD?
IS INCREDIBLY INNOVATIVE, HE IS AS ENTHUSED AS SHE HAS ENTHUSIASM LIKE YOU CANNOT BELIEVE. WITHOUT HE WAS A PERFECT FIT FOR OUR NEW MISSION STATEMENT, WHERE WE WERE TRYING TO GO.
WHAT IS THE NEW MISSION STATEMENT? MAKES THE MISSION SEEMS TO BE RESPONSIVE TO THE COMMITTEE DON'T HAVE A MUCH GREATER EMPHASIS ON COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND HAVE ACCESSIBILITY FOR OPERA.
ACCESSIBILITY. LSU MORE ABOUT THAT AS WE CONTINUE OUR CONVERSATION. WHEN IT COMES TO STAGING OPERAS IN UNUSUAL PLACES, THE GOTHAM OPERA COMPANY DID THAT A GREAT DEAL. YOU STAGED OPERAS FOR INSTANCE THE BROOKLYN BOTANICAL GARDENS, WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT DOES TO CHANGE THE EXPERIENCE OF OPERA?
BUT WE HAVE THE NET GOTHAM IS TO, WE DIDN'T SET OUT TO DO THAT ANYWAY TO BRING NEW AUDIENCES TO SEE FIELDS, WE DID THAT ANYWAY TO ELIMINATE THE WORK. WHEN WE HAVE TAKEN A PIECE AND WE HAVE SET AN UNUSUAL VENUE IT IS BECAUSE THE WORK WAS BROUGHT TO A NEW DIMENSION BY DOING SO. FOR INSTANCE THE WORK YOU'VE REFERENCED, ROBBIE CHENEY'S DAUGHTER WHICH DEBUTED IN SAN DIEGO, THE ORIGINAL PRODUCTION WAS IN SAN DIEGO IN A THEATER, THE SETTING OF IT IS A GARDEN. WITHOUT TO ACTUALLY TAKE THAT AND PUT IT IN A GARDEN WOULD GIVE A DIFFERENT SENSE OF THE EXPERIENCE FOR THE AUDIENCE. THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE DONE. IT HAS BEEN A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE. AS BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL FOR US IN NEW YORK AND I THINK WE'LL WILL FIND THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES HERE IN SAN DIEGO.
WHEN YOU SEE THE GOAL OF IT WAS THOUGHT TO BRING A NEW AUDIENCES BUT RATHER TO FIND NEW DIMENSIONS IN THE OPERA PC ITSELF DID IT ACTUALLY BRING IN NEW AUDIENCES?
ABSOLUTELY. IF YOU'RE PUTTING OPERA IN A SPACE THAT IS NONTRADITIONAL, YOU'RE GOING TO ATTRACT A DIFFERENT KIND OF AUDIENCE, YOU'RE GOING TO ATTRACT THE OPERA LOVERS THAT WILL FOLLOW YOU THERE BUT YOU WILL ATTRACT A DIFFERENT AUDIENCE THAT IS MORE CURIOUS, IT IS A COPRODUCTION WHICH IT WAS IN THE CASE OF THE OPERA THAT WE SET IN THE GARDEN IT WAS A COPRODUCTION WITH ANOTHER INSTITUTION THE BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN. YOU WILL BRING ALONG THEIR AUDIENCE EXPOSE INTO SOMETHING THAT IN THEIR SPACE THEY HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED BEFORE.
CAROL, AS YOU KNOW FORMER SAN DIEGO OPERA DIRECTOR IAN CAMPBELL WAS ADAMANT THAT SAN DIEGO AUDIENCES WANT GRAND OPERA. HOW DO YOU BUILD AN APPETITE IN SAN DIEGO FOR ALTERNATIVE KINDS OF OPERA PRODUCTIONS?
WE SHALL SEE. I DO AGREE THERE IS A SEGMENT OF THE POPULATION THAT GRAND OPERA IS IMPORTANT TO I AM ONE OF THEM BUT ALSO BY HAVING OPERA IN DIFFERENT VENUES COME HAVING AN USUAL OPERAS ARE THINGS THAT PEOPLE COULD REALLY BE A PART OF A THINK ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO BRING IN NEW AUDIENCES.
AS THE BOARD HAS BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS AND IN MAKING ITS NEW MISSION STATEMENT COME IN TRYING TO BROADEN UP WHERE OPERA IS SUPPOSED TO GO AND WORD IS SUPPOSED TO FIT IN, HAVE YOU FORMULATED ANY IDEAS ABOUT HOW THIS COMMUNITY COULD BE USED IN THE SAME WAY THAT DAVID HAS USED NEW YORK? MAC WE'RE GOING TO SEE WHAT DAVID COMES UP WITH, AS AN ARTISTIC DIRECTOR HE WILL ENGAGE THEM IN THE COMMUNITY AND HE COULD DO HIS RESEARCH AND WE WILL HELP THEM FIND SOME INTERESTING WAYS TO PRESENT OPERA.
AS YOU HAVE BEEN DRIVING RUN ACCLIMATING YOURSELF TO SAN DIEGO, HAS THERE BEEN COME ARE YOU SCOUTING LOCATIONS? MAC I HAVE NOT HAD A CHANCE TO GO INTO LOCATIONS TOO MUCH BUT OF COURSE THE CLIMATE HERE IN THE ARCHITECTURE HERE SPEAKS OF A CERTAIN KIND OF EXPERIENCE BUT I THINK AND HELP US INFORMED IN WHAT DIRECTION IS GOING FORWARD. MIGHT BE OUTDOOR OPERA, THE CLIMATE IS CERTAINLY BEAUTIFUL HERE ALL YEAR FAR -- WHEREAS IN YORK IT CAN ONLY HAPPEN DURING THE SUMMERS. ODYSSEY THE HISPANIC CULTURE IS VERY IMPORTANT HERE SO THE WAY THAT CULTURE AND OTHERS ARE ENGAGED MORE DEEPLY WILL BE INTERESTING TO EXPENSIVE COURSE IS A WHOLE REALM OF HISPANIC OPERA AND OF COURSE OPERAS THAT ARE BY SPANISH AND ALSO ENGLISH COMPOSERS THAT ARE BASED ON SPANISH THEMES THAT MIGHT JUST A MIGHT BE WORTH XY. THAT IS TO BE DETERMINED. I THINK THE COMPANIES THAT HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN THIS SORT OF TRANSFORMATION HAVE DONE SO BY REALLY LOOKING SPECIFICALLY AT THEIR COMMUNITY AND FINDING WHAT IS THE MODEL THAT IS JUST RIGHT FOR THIS COMMUNITY. IT WILL NOT BE SOMETHING THAT IS REPLICATED EXACTLY WHAT ANOTHER COMPANY HAS DONE BUT IT WILL BE SPECIFIC TO SAN DIEGO.
CAROL SINCE LAST YEAR'S MOVE BY IAN CAMPBELL IN THE OLD BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO CLOSE THE SAN DIEGO OPERA, THE NEW BOARD AND THE INTERIM DIRECTOR BILL MASON HAVE BEEN MANAGING THE COMPANY. COULD YOU GIVE US AN UPDATE ON THE STATUS OF THE SAN DIEGO OPERA? I KNOW YOU HAVE CUT BACK THE NUMBER OF OPERAS PER SEASON, YOU MOVED TO NEW OFFICES, WHAT ELSE HAS CHANGED?
WE SAVED A THIRD OF OUR BUDGET. WEB-ENABLED TO PRODUCE A LOT OF PRODUCT FOR THAT REDUCED BUDGET WE HAD TO RESETTLE SISTER AND WE ARE HAVING A MARRIOTT SHE OPERA AND A 50th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT. WE'RE BRINGING ON SOME NEW EMPLOYEES. WE'RE EXPANDING COME I AM JUST SO EXCITED ABOUT DAVID I CAN BARELY THINK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE WE'RE JUST REALLY HEADED IN A NEW DIRECTION OF EXCLUSIVITY AND REALLY BRINGING THE COMMUNITY INTO OPERA.
ALSO TELLS A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE FUNDRAISING EFFORT AND HOW SAN DIEGO RESPONDED TO THAT.
THE CROWD WAS AMAZING. WE RAISED 200 THAT -- $200,000 IN UNDER TWO WEEKS.
I HAVE HEARD IT IS UNPRECEDENTED.
IT IS UNPRECEDENTED. IT JUST GOES TO SHOW THE COMMUNITY COME THE OUTPOURING OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR KEEPING OUR OPERA LIFE.
WHAT KIND OF BUDGET AS DAVID HAVE TO WORK WITH? MAC HE HAS ABOUT A $12 MILLION BUDGET THIS YEAR.
IS SET DOWN FROM WHAT IT HAS BEEN IN THE PAST?
IT WAS UP TO $70 MILLION AND $80 MILLION A FEW YEARS AGO. LASTER WAS $11.5 MILLION IN THIS YEAR JUST $12 MILLION. WERE STILL FINALIZING THE BUDGET SO I CANNOT GIVE A FINAL BUDGET. AROUND $12 MILLION.
DAVID AS I UNDERSTAND THAT IS SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN THE KIND OF BUDGET YOU HAD AT THE GOTHAM OPERA ISN'T THAT RIGHT? WHICH -- -- WITH HIS BIG AMOUNT OF MONEY, WHAT TO THINK THAT GIVES YOU THE ABILITY TO DO THAT YOU COULD NOT DO IN NEW YORK? MAC OBVIOUSLY GRAND OPERA THAT IS THE FIRST THING. GRAND OPERA THINK ALWAYS BE MAJOR PORTION OF WHAT SAN DIEGO REPRESENTS. A SEASON OF GRAND OPERA AT THE CIVIC THEATER AND THEN THE ABILITY TO EXPERIMENT WITH THESE OTHER IDEAS. WISCONSIN WHICH IS PRESENTED WORK FOR INTIMATE SPACES. WE DIDN'T JUST TO CITE SPECIFIC THINGS IN NONTRADITIONAL SPACES WERE ALSO PRODUCED IN SMALLER TRADITIONAL THEATERS THEATERS OF 600 TO 800 SEATS. THE SKILL OF A LARGER SCALE WORK OF GRAND TRADITIONAL OPERA REQUIRES A LARGER BUDGET. AM LOOKING FORWARD TO WORKING THAT SIDE OF THE OPERA SPECTRUM A GREAT DEAL. I WASN'T OPERA SINGER HAVE EXPENSIVE TRADITIONAL REPERTOIRE IN ONE OF THE MANAGING LATELY IS NONTRADITIONAL REPERTOIRE WHICH I LOVE AND I THINK IT IS FANTASTIC I THINK THE CONTEXT OF ADDITIONAL REPERTOIRE MIGHT BE REPRODUCED IN A MORE SURPRISING IN USUAL WAY BUT TRADITIONAL REPERTOIRE IN A GRAND THEATER AND NONTRADITIONAL OPERA IN NONTRADITIONAL SPACES IS THE MOST EXCITING MODEL.
GIVE US AN IDEA OF THE KIND OF NONTRADITIONAL OPERA THAT YOU HAVE BEEN STAGING IN NEW YORK. THERE'S A REALLY WIDE RANGE.
IF YOU THINK ABOUT GRAND OPERA IT IS BASICALLY 19TH-CENTURY BRICK THERE ARE MANY OTHER CENTURIES WHEN OPERA WAS COMPOSED. WHAT WE HAVE DONE AT GOTHAM IS REALLY FOCUS ON THE BROKE UP TO THE 19 CENTURY AND THEN THE 20th AND 21st CENTURY OPERA TOUR. OUR MISSION WAS TO PRESENTER IS TO PRESENT WORK THAT IS INTENDED FOR AN INTIMATE VENUE AS IT WAS INTENDED. NOT DOING A -- CUT DOWN WITH A SMALL COURSE OR A SMALL ORCHESTRA BUT REALLY AS THE COMPOSER INTENDED. THERE WAS A LOT OF REPERTOIRE THAT NO ONE IS DOING PRICKLY JUST SO FOR THIS YOU HAVE PRODUCED A DOUBLE BILL BY THE CZECH COMPOSER, WE DID A COMPOSER PIECE BY 20th CENTURY SPANISH COMPOSER, -- COMPOSER PUSS IN BOOTS AND THAT WAS AGAIN FOR A SMALL VENUE IS A BEAUTIFUL PRODUCTION WITH BEAUTIFUL PUPPETRY PRODUCED AGAIN IN AN UNUSUAL WAY. WERE GETTING READY TO MOVE TO A PRODUCTION OF A DOUBLE BILL BY A 21ST-CENTURY SCANDINAVIAN COMPOSER AND A 17th CENTURY BRITISH COMPOSER BASED ON THE TEMPEST. THERE IS A LOT OF THINGS THAT CAN BE EXPLORED THAT ISN'T OUT OF THE CONTEXT OF WHAT WE THINK AS TRADITIONAL OPERA.
WOULD BE REASONABLE TO ASSUME THAT EVEN TRADITIONAL OPERA IN THE HANDS OF DAVID BENNETT MIGHT BE A LITTLE UNTRADITIONAL? MAGAZINE POSSIBLY SO WORK
HOW SO?
MAY BE DIFFERENT TO WHAT HAS BEEN PRODUCED HERE. THERE ARE OTHER METHODS OR STYLES OR MODES OF PRESENTATION THE THINKER HAPPENING IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY, IT MIGHT INVOLVE A DIFFERENT TYPE OF CASTING, DIFFERENT DIRECTORIAL APPROACH. I'M NOT ADVOCATING WHERE DIRECTORS MAKE HUGE CHANGES TO THE SETTING OF THE STORY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT BUT JUST A DIFFERENT MODE, MAYBE A LITTLE FRESH LOOK AT THE WAY OPERAS BEING PRODUCED AND IT IS NOT AS IF THIS IS SOMETHING OTHER COMPANIES AREN'T DOING. THERE ARE MANY COPIES RUN THE COUNTRY DOING THIS.
ONE THING THAT COMES VERY HIGH IN THE PROFILE OF WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN DOING IN NEW YORK IS YOUR LIAISON IN WITH DIFFERENT ARTS INSTITUTIONS, DIFFERENT CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS, NOT ONLY TO PRESENT OPERA IN A DIFFERENT SETTING. TO UC YOUR SELF CONTINUING THAT HERE? MAC ABSOLUTELY. OF THINK ONE OF THE GREAT BENEFITS WE HAVE HERE IS THERE IS NEW LEADERSHIP WITH A LOT OF CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS IN SAN DIEGO SO I THINK THERE'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO REALLY HARNESS THAT NCP CAN FIND WAYS WITH A CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS CAN WORK TOGETHER. THE SYMPHONY WITH THE OAK GLOW, PERHAPS ACTUALLY WORKING TOGETHER INSTEAD OF ENGAGING EACH OTHER FOR INSTANCE HIRING THE SYMPHONY TO PLAY IN THE PIPIT ACTUALLY PRODUCING AND THINKING TOGETHER ABOUT HOW TO CREATE PRODUCT THAT CAN BENEFIT EVERYONE.
THAT KIND OF ORCHESTRA SOMETHING DIFFERENT THEN YOU HAVE AT THE GOTHAM CHAMBER OPERA.
EXACTLY RIGHT. AGAIN WE PRODUCE WORK AS IT WAS INTENDED FOR THE SMALLER VENUES WHICH OF COURSE A SMALL VENUE HAS A SMALL PITTANCE OR IS THERE A LIMITING FACTOR THIS A GENERALLY THE ORCHESTRA SIZE TOPS OUT AROUND 30.
THIS WILL BE DIFFERENT. CAROL AS WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF SAN DIEGO REALLY RESPONDING TO THE IDEA THAT THEY DIDN'T WANT TO SEE SAN DIEGO OPERA CLOSE, THAT THEY WANTED TO GIVE IT A DELIGHT, A NEW DIRECTION IN A WAY, IAN CAMPBELL WAS NOT COMPLETELY WRONG WHEN HE CLAIMED THE FUNDING DAYS FOR OPERA WAS SHRINKING. HOW DO YOU CREATE A FINANCIALLY SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR OPERA?
THERE ARE VARIOUS WAYS OF JAMAICAN REDUCE OPERA LESS EXPENSIVELY, WE ARE LIMITED IN OUR VENUES HERE IN SAN DIEGO FOR GRAND OPERA MOSTLY LIQUID -- MOST LIKELY WAS TO BE THE CIVIC THEATER. ZAKARIA DAVID HERE TO HELP US GET THERE AS OUR NEW GENERAL DIRECTOR.
LET ME ASK YOU, THIS MUST BE VERY HIGH ON YOUR LINE.
IF YOU THINK ABOUT DIFFERENT KINDS OF PRESENTATIONS IN DIFFERENT STYLES AND DIFFERENT KINDS OF PROPER TOUR, YOU THEN HAVE A PORTFOLIO OF FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE DIFFERENT, THAT MIGHT ATTRACT DIFFERENT KINDS OF DONORS.
GIVE US AN EXAMPLE WORK
EXPRESSED A SMALL VENUE THAT MIGHT BE ATTRACTED TO CERTAIN DONOR IN A WAY, THE EXPENSE OF INTIMACY IS DIFFERENT THAN THE EXPENSE OF GRANTOR. THEY ARE BOTH VALID AND POTENT BUT SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO SUPPORT ONE MORE THAN THE OTHER. THE ACTUAL COOPERATION OF CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS BUT ATTRACT A CERTAIN KIND OF DONOR, MIGHT ATTRACT A CERTAIN KIND OF INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT THAT JUST PRODUCING BY YOURSELF WOULD NOT PRESENT ENGAGING COMES MOST IMPORT PIECE OF THINK IS REALLY ENGAGING WITH THE COMMUNITY AND THE COMMUNITY, THE ORGANIZATION ACTING AS A COMMUNITY ASSET THAT IS REALLY IN TUNE WITH THE NEEDS OF THE DESIRES OF COMMITTEE ALSO CAN ATTRACT SUPPORT IN A WAY.
I DON'T APPEAR TO ASK YOU, T1 HAS A VIBRANT ARTS COMMUNITY. YOU ALREADY KNOW.
IS ARTIE GOT SOME THINGS UP HIS SLEEVE.
-- HE HAS ARTIE GOT SOME THINGS UP HIS SLEEVE.
WILL MAY SEE MORE THINGS CROSS-BORDER.
I HOPE SO. THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING TO BE VERY INTERESTED TO INVESTIGATE.
WENDY OFFICIALLY BEGIN?
MID-JUNE.
NEWARK IS MEANT TO BE SORRY TO SEE GO.
I WILL BE SORRY TO LEAVE NEW YORK. HAVE HAD A GREAT EXPERIENCE THEIR. I WOULD NOT BE SORRY TO LEAVE THE WINTER WE JUST HAD. I WILL BE SORRY TO LEAVE NEW YORK HAS BEEN A GREAT EXPENSE FOR ME.
I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH VERY MUCH AND REMIND EVERYONE THAT THE SAN DIEGO OPERA'S NEXT PRODUCTION, NIXON IN CHINA OPENS THIS SATURDAY AT THE CIVIC THEATER. I HAVE BEEN SPEAKING WITH DAVID BENNETT, MRS. SAN DIEGO OPERA'S NEW GENERAL DIRECTOR AND CAROL LAZIER PRESIDENT. OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF SAN DIEGO OPERA. THANK YOU BOTH VERY MUCH.
THANK YOU.