Not Dead Yet: San Diego Opera Receives a Two-Week Reprieve, $1 Million Gift from Board Member Carol Lazier

By Louise Burton on Apr 07, 2014 08:37 PM EDT

As a dramatic art form, opera thrives on desperate situations and narrow escapes. So too does the San Diego Opera, which has been pulled back from the brink of dissolution by a two-week reprieve and a last-minute $1 million gift from a board member.

Financial problems led the company to announce in March that it would close down at the end of this, its 49th season, after the final production of Massenet's Don Quixote on April 13. General Director Ian Campbell cited a decline in contributions and ticket sales, saying "The demand for opera in this city isn't high enough."

But during a board meeting last Monday, a group of board members was able to pass a two-week extension of the deadline for closure, according to Board President Karen Cohn.

The extension to April 29 would give the beleaguered company more time to seek financial support from the City of San Diego and other potential donors.

On Friday, the company announced that it received the $1 million gift from board member Carol Lazier.

She said in a statement: "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 ... I gave the money to encourage us to rescind the dissolution vote as soon as possible."

Board members discussed a motion to officially rescind the closure at last week's board meeting, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, the Los Angeles Times reported. But the motion was tabled in favor of the two-week postponement to April 29.

Lazier also said "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."

According to Lazier, the company's current practice of mounting four full-scale opera productions each year is "unsustainable in our community." She also called for "new fundraising methods, new repertoire, and new cost saving measures."

Whether or not the company's board and management embrace her suggestions, there is clearly a lot of work to do in order to save San Diego Opera by April 29.

But the company does have the support of many people in the community, who started a "Save the San Diego Opera" petition. The petition urges the Board of Directors to reconsider its decision to shut the company down. So far, it has gathered more than 20,000 signatures.

Will San Diego Opera be able to avoid the fate of New York City Opera, which went under despite a last minute, emergency fundraising drive? It's unclear at this point if the campaign to save San Diego will succeed--or prove quixotic.

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TagsSan Diego Opera, Don Quixote, Massenet, Ian Campbell, Karen Cohn, Carol Lazier, Save the San Diego Opera, New York City Opera, San Diego

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