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Arts & Culture

San Diego Opera Receives $1M Gift To Explore Future

Greg Fedderly as Bob Boles (centre) with the San Diego Opera chorus in 'Peter Grimes'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard
Greg Fedderly as Bob Boles (centre) with the San Diego Opera chorus in 'Peter Grimes'. Photo © 2009 Ken Howard

The struggling San Diego Opera, on life support through the end of the month, has received a $1 million gift from board member Carol Lazier to explore a sustainable business model and alternative ways to stage opera.

In a statement Friday night, Lazier said, "I gave the money to encourage us to rescind the dissolution vote as soon as possible."

The opera's board of directors voted 33-1 on March 19 to close the storied institution in mid-April, after the company’s final performance of “Don Quixote.” The board then convened on March 31 to answer questions from directors who were concerned they didn’t have adequate information before that vote.


After the five-hour special meeting, the board voted to delay the closure by two weeks, from April 13 until April 29. It was recommended that a special committee research future options for the opera and examine the company’s finances.

Lazier's gift will be used to explore some of those options.

Here is Lazier's statement:

“Other companies of our size like Dallas Opera have been able to re-make themselves into successful companies without drastic steps like closure or bankruptcy. My gift is being given as a challenge to the Board of Directors in order to give us some time and resources to consider and explore realistic options from experts in the field who we can find through Opera America.

"I gave the money to encourage us to rescind the dissolution vote as soon as possible. Having four full-scale productions is clearly unsustainable in our community. What would a re-tooled and financially stable season and company look like? A company with new fundraising methods, new repertoire, new cost saving measures and an inspired future? One supported by a community already now broader, more innovative, and more emotionally committed than I have ever seen?

"This money is not being given to restart raising financial support from the community for the company as it exists today. Raising public support can only come after we have a workable business plan. Opera is the greatest of the performing arts. It’s a culmination of all the other arts - music, drama, voice, dance, theater. The stories are timeless. The arts nourish our souls and connect us as human beings. With the arts being cut in schools, arts education programs such as the ones San Diego Opera supports are critical to help fill the gap.

"This gift is to be used to explore other options, anything other than ceasing operations after 49 successful years. If we close, 400 jobs will be lost and all our assets, including our profitable scenic studio will be sold off. Our city's reputation will be tarnished. How can ‘America's finest city’ not have an opera company? Perhaps this is the blessing of a near death experience – the capacity to nurture this new life we have been given.”
"Don Quixote," possibly the final show for the San Diego Opera, opens Saturday night at the Civic Theater. It also has performances on April 8, 11 and 13.

If this is the opera company's final season, it will end one year shy of its 50th anniversary of staging productions in San Diego.