Success! The San Diego Opera Has Been Saved!

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

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Ralph F.
Ralph F.4 months ago

Very good news. I was once told by a friend that petitions have no real influence, but in the past few years I've noticed more than a few policy changes by governments, corporations and smaller institutions -- veering away from, "business as usual" in response to petitions signed by a large number of people. The San Diego Opera story is just the latest. Good job, everyone.

john james Parr
john james Parrabout a year ago

Fantastic result, great article...made my day

Denise Denton
Denise D.about a year ago

What a great success story and testimonial to what we can do if we just stick together! Wouldn't it be great if we could do this to ban fracking, or ban GMO foods?!

Robert McGonigal
Robert McGonigalabout a year ago

... Hi All, I Am In Canada, But When I Seen That Classic Iconic Theater, I Knew I Had To Put My Signature To It.. I've Never Been In That Theater, But I Would Be Glad To Drop By If I Am Ever By There.. We Need To Preserve Our Old Theaters, Modern Theaters Just Do Not Have The Same Magic.. THIS PLACE DOES.. Peace All, Namaste! _/|_

Diane C.
Past Member about a year ago

Frans B.--the theater was never in danger--it's the company and their scheduled season that had been cancelled :)

Diane C.
Past Member about a year ago

Excellent! I couldn't believe they were planning on folding even with a reasonable balance sheet. We lost Opera Pacifica in Orange County a few years ago, so I'm especially happy SDO has survived.

Anne F.
Anne F.about a year ago

Great response -- they aren't out of the woods yet, but a trim season is so much better than closing.

Julia R.
Julia R.about a year ago

This is such great news!! This Opera brought a lot of enjoyment to not only the people of San Diego but to people all over the world! We don't need less culture in our world we need more because culture enriches us in so many ways and it is so good for children to be exposed to the arts too! It is so wonderful to hear that a Care2 petition created and signed by caring people saved this opera!

Julie Cannon
Julie Cannonabout a year ago

So glad to hear this!

Nimue P.
Nimue Pendragonabout a year ago

Wonderful! :)