A beloved, much-lauded arts institution loses its funding and shutters it doors forever. It’s a story we’ve become accustomed to hear. But that’s not what this post is about.
On March 19, the San Diego Opera announced that it would close. Founded in 1950, the opera has been ranked as one of the top ten opera companies in the U.S. and had established a reputation for stellar performances as well as outstanding community education and outreach efforts. Music lovers in San Diego, around the country and around the world were simply shocked when the opera’s board announced plans to liquidate the company, citing a recent decline in attendance and without holding any public forum.
Supporters (including unions representing performers and production personnel as well as a few “rebel board members“) stepped in and started a Care2 petition that more than 21,000 peopled signed. In May, the opera announced that it would not close.
The fight to save the San Diego Opera was full of high drama and more than a few plot twists. In just a few weeks, the petition to save the opera had gotten thousands of signatures. In April, at a “chaotic” meeting, about a dozen board members who had voted to close the opera (including then-director, Ian Campbell, and his ex-wife and deputy director, Ann Spira Campbell) were pushed out. Board president Carol Lazier took over leadership of the company and sought to raise $1 million by May 19 via crowdfunding.
As it turned out, over $2.1 million was raised from over 2,400 people. “You spread the word, donated, tweeted and posted to Facebook and, because of an amazing and dedicated community, San Diego Opera is moving forward,” a statement from the opera’s website noted. Two months after the demise of the San Diego Opera had seemed a fact, the board announced that the curtain will be rising for its 50th season in 2015.
The San Diego Opera has been saved but the story is not yet over. Instead of producing four operas as planned, its 2015 season will include three. The board still needs to raise quite a bit more money to fund an operating budget that — even with staff taking pay cuts and reductions in production costs (the San Diego Opera will borrow a set for one performance from another opera company rather than incurring the cost to build its own) — still exceeds $10 million. The California State Attorney has raised concerns about the opera’s finances and is conducting an audit.
Exactly what the San Diego Opera’s future will look like remains yet unclear. What is for sure is that Care2 members did not hesitate to show their support for the opera and to make it clear that the arts do matter. Start a petition to show you care that, even when money is scarce, the final curtain doesn’t have to come down on treasured cultural institutions.
Photo via David Woo