by Tarryn Mento | KPBS
The San Diego Opera board decided Friday to move forward with plans to fold after its 49th season concludes this month, but some of its members will continue exploring other options for the organization.
Opera fans and some board members had hoped that a last-ditch effort to stave off the the company’s pending shutdown could be achieved, but that was not the word that emerged after the three-hour meeting Friday afternoon in La Jolla.
Board member Pam Slater-Price, a former county supervisor and arts supporter, said after the meeting that the San Diego Opera would proceed with closure plans, although a committee was created to explore ways to fundraise or possibly take the nonprofit organization in a new direction.
That committee, headed by board member Carol Lazier, will present its ideas to the board when it meets again Thursday.
Slater-Price said most people were calm at the meeting and that many of the board members want to see the organization continue, but it needs money.
“We’ve had more publicity in the last two or three weeks than probably [the opera] had in the prior 25 years, yet even though 20,000 signatures came in, we didn’t see dollars,” she said referring to a petition to save the opera.
In mid-March, the board voted to close up shop at the end of this season. The opera was expected to cease operations a few days after the April 13 closing night of “Don Quixote.” But after a marathon five-hour meeting late last month, the company got a two-week reprieve. The board of directors approved delaying the closure until April 29.
Friday’s meeting included a special presentation by a small group of board members on possible ways to move the opera forward. Lazier, who this month pledged $1 million toward keeping the opera going, was among that group.
She also flew to Dallas last weekend to discuss ways to reinvent the company.
Board President Karen Cohn previously said it would take $10 million to take the organization through its 2015 season, which would have been the company’s 50th anniversary.
Before the meeting began about 2 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla, four members of the National Opera Center America sent a letter to the board encouraging it to find a way to keep San Diego Opera going.
“For nearly 50 years, San Diego Opera has worked to establish itself as one of America’s finest opera companies,” the letter said. “It simply cannot ‘throw in the towel’ and go down without a determined effort to preserve the institution for the next generation of opera audiences in your great city.”
The New York-based group, which promotes and supports opera throughout the country, said it would assist the San Diego Opera with advice on governance and financial management, fundraising plans and programming options for the 2014-15 season.
The San Diego Opera has an annual budget of about $17 million and employs around 400 people.
Controversy has surrounded the San Diego Opera’s leadership, specifically General and Artistic Director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife, Ann Campbell, the company’s deputy director.
A former official with the Internal Revenue Service said the “very generous compensation packages” given to the Campbells could raise questions with legal authorities.
The opera’s tax filings for 2011-12 showed Ian Campbell made an annual salary of $508,021 and that his ex-wife made $282,345.