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Roundtable: More Drama At San Diego Opera Unfolds

HOST: Mark Sauer


Angela Carone, KPBS News

Beth Accomando, KPBS News

Dean Calbreath, San Diego Daily Transcript

JW August, 10News


The San Diego Opera Board was expected to decide on Thursday, April 24, whether General Director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife, Deputy Director Ann Campbell, would be asked to leave or stay on. Instead, the Campbells have been placed on indefinite paid administrative leave.

Act One: The Opera Shuts Down

When the board voted on March 19 to shut down the opera after the final performance of "Don Quixote" in April, jaws dropped and anguished questions immediately were shouted from many corners.

It was known that the opera had suffered dwindling audiences and donations since the Great Recession of 2008. Donations have improved somewhat recently, but ticket sales have not. Ian Campbell and Opera Board President Karen Cohn were convinced that a viable 2015 season could not be mounted.

The civic upset caused the board to back off a bit, issuing a two-week stay of execution, and things calmed down somewhat.

Act Two: Out With The Old, In With the New

And then came the board meeting of April 17.

The board members in attendance began to consider ways to keep the opera going with a greatly reduced budget, causing Ian Campbell and Karen Cohn to leave, or, some say, storm out, along with Life Director Faye Wilson and several others. Cohn resigned as president. Board member Carol Lazier was named acting president.

The embarrassing discovery was made that under California law, the board of directors did not have the power to shut down the opera by themselves without a vote of the 800 members of the San Diego Opera Association. That vote is scheduled for Monday.

Act Three: Anybody's Guess

During his 30 years as director, Ian Campbell moved the Opera from a $3 million budget and a mountain of debt to a budget of $17 million and fiscal stability. He brought singers to the Civic Theater stage from all over the world and filled the 3,000 seat house for many years.

Will this story be his legacy? Or will his legacy suffer from his love of grand opera and aversion to change?

Will Carol Lazier be able to save the opera?

What kind of opera will it be?

Stay tuned.

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