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Arts & Culture

San Diego Opera Faces Breach Of Contract Complaint

Soprano Joan Sutherland performing in concert at the San Diego Opera.
Soprano Joan Sutherland performing in concert at the San Diego Opera.

A musicians' union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that accuses the San Diego Opera of failing to honor contracts with its singers.

The opera announced on March 19 it would close at the end of this season, after 49 years of operation.

The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), who represent solo singers, chorus singers and stage management personnel at the San Diego Opera, filed the claim with the NLRB on March 26.


Despite being in the black for 28 years, San Diego Opera director Ian Campbell told KPBS "Evening Edition" the opera's demise was inevitable and the board of directors wanted the organization "to go out with dignity."

"The opera has no debt, no deficit, no line of credit," Campbell told KPBS, adding the opera would have needed at least $10 million in contributions to stay afloat for a 50th season.

"All of the news stories and statements released by the SDO (San Diego Opera) and Mr. Campbell had indicated that it currently has sufficient funds to pay off their current debts. This debt would include the contracts for future services of employees represented by AGMA," said Hope Singer, a lawyer representing the AGMA, in a letter to the NLRB.

In an email to San Diego Opera director Ian Campbell, Singer wrote:

"... at least 25 solo singers have contracts with SDO for performances in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons. SDO is obligated to play those contracts in full. ... In addition, SDO is required under federal law to meet with AGMA for the purposes of negotiating the effects of SDO's closure on all AGMA represented bargaining unit employees."

Previously, Campbell said "the problem with opera is it's labor-intensive. It takes a lot of money to run."