Singers file lawsuit against San Diego Opera - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Singers file lawsuit against San Diego Opera

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A complaint aimed at forcing the embattled San Diego Opera to submit to arbitration with its singers was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, a lawyer for the employees said.

The opera is preparing to shut down near the end of this month if it doesn't get enough funding to put on at least a limited 2015 season. The most recent season concluded Sunday.

More than 30 vocalists who belong to the American Guild of Musical Artists have a clause in their contracts that compels arbitration in case of disputes, Los Angeles-based lawyer Hope Singer told City News Service.

She said the opera, which cited an untenable financial condition for its plan to fold, has refused arbitration.

"The language is so clear -- we will win (in court)," Singer said.

The contracts, which are good for two more years, require the singers to be paid whether or not they perform, according to the federal complaint.

Opera lawyer Jeffrey Vanderwal did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit. But in a letter to Singer dated April 11, he said that since the contracts have not been breached, and the opera's board of directors is trying to put on a 2015 season, the arbitration demands are "premature."

The looming shutdown has been intensely criticized, and director Ian Campbell was booed at the opera company's final performances.

Nicolas Reveles, the opera's director of education, has said nearly 50 full-time staff members, along with about 350 local musicians, singers and other tradespeople, depend on the opera season's five months of work.

The opera has a nearly $7 million impact on the local economy, according to Reveles. The San Diego Symphony alone earned $1.4 million in revenue during this season, and the San Diego Civic Theatre made $800,000, he said.

The patron and donor base for opera companies are diminishing nationwide. Opera companies in New York City, Boston, Cleveland, Baltimore, San Antonio and Orange County have gone out of business recently, according to the San Diego Opera.

The Opera originated as the San Diego Opera Guild in 1950. The San Diego Opera Association was incorporated in 1965.

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