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Arts & Culture

San Diego Opera Announces Matching Gift Challenge

San Diego Opera announces matching gift challenge.
Ken Howard
San Diego Opera announces matching gift challenge.

UPDATE: The San Diego Opera has reached its $1 million crowd funding goal.

Two board members and a group of opera lovers are offering to match $500,000 raised by the community in support of continuing the San Diego Opera.

The matching challenge must be met by May 19, when the company is set to close unless enough money is raised for a 2015 season. Next year would be the organization's 50th anniversary.


Board members Gloria Rasmussen and Jay Merritt and the Sopranos, an investment group of 10 women whose interest is the opera, proposed the match.

“We made this challenge because we love San Diego Opera and we believe it belongs in our community,” Sopranos member Joan Henkelmann said in a statement. “Our gift makes it possible for a student to give $50 and make it a $100 contribution, a family to give $250 and make it a $500 contribution.”

A crowd funding campaign launched on April 25 is nearing its $1 million goal. The opera has received more than $900,000 from more than 1,600 donors. Funds are coming from three foreign countries — Italy, Austria, and Mexico —and 30 states other than California. More than 42 percent of the contributors are first time donors to San Diego Opera.

“Thank you to the person who gave the opera their first $10, and the champion who gave $50,000,” board president Carol Lazier said in the statement. “It is all of you who are the lifeblood of the company, and all of you who will guarantee its future. “

Money raised through the crowd funding campaign is placed in an escrow account and will be returned to donors if the $1 million goal is not met or a 2015 season is not announced.


The opera company needs to raise at least $6.5 million total in contributed income to move forward with its 2015 season.

Back in March, the opera board voted to close the company at the end of the 2014 season on April 14. The closure date was postponed twice in a series of contentious board meetings, including one meeting that ended with the resignation of 13 members including the board president. The opera is now set to close May 19, though a reconfigured board with new leadership is fundraising and working to restructure the company and a 2015 season in the hopes of staying open.

If fundraising goals are met, the board plans to rescind the May 19 closure vote and announce the 2015 season, which will include versions of “La Boheme,” “Don Giovanni,” “Nixon in China” and “Tannhäuser.”

Earlier this week, the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture recommended cutting funds to the opera at a meeting of the City Council. The council will now decide whether or not to accept the recommendation of the advisory group as it continues reviewing the Mayor’s proposed budget for 2015.

Also, AGMA, the union representing singers has dropped a lawsuit against the opera company as long as contracts currently in place for 2015 and beyond are honored.