SD Opera supporters make plea to board - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

SD Opera supporters make plea to board

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Supporters of the San Diego Opera and association members today urged the opera's Board of Directors to rescind a decision to shut down for good next month, prior to what would be its 50th season.

Financial problems led the opera's Board of Directors to vote last month to end operations, but the decision was met with opposition from employees and fans. The opera initially planned to cease operations April 14, but later pushed the closing date to May 19.

Longtime opera supporter Catherine de los Rios told City News Service said supporters wanted transparency and would hate to see the opera disappear.

"These people have a huge task ahead of them and they have to approach it cautiously," de los Rios said. "I think the main goal is to let people know the opera isn't dead. It's alive, and they're trying to do something -- whether it comes to fruition remains to be seen."

On Friday, opera officials announced that an escrow account had been established to accept donations to fund what would be the 50th season. As of midday, more than $134,000 of the $1 million goal had been raised, according to the opera's website.

"The public's support for the San Diego Opera's future has been overwhelming," acting board President Carol Lazier said in a statement. "People could not accept their beloved opera was disappearing and took to the streets in protest. We heard you."

Nearly 50 staffers and about 350 local musicians, singers and other tradespeople depend on the opera season's five months of work, said Nicolas Reveles, the opera's director of education. The opera has a roughly $7 million impact on the local economy, he said.

Opera officials said the donations would be returned if the goal was not met by the proposed closing date or the opera ended up closing anyway.

Tax deductible donations can be made online at sdopera.com/moveforward, or by calling (619) 533-7000 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

The opera has also made a series of recent personnel changes. Former President Karen Cohn's resigned during a contentious meeting two weeks ago. On Friday, Lazier announced that Ian Campbell, the opera's CEO and artistic director, and general director Ann Spira Campbell had been placed on leave.

Keith Fisher, executive director for the past 12 years, was then named chief operating officer.

Lazier, who took over from Cohn, said she had "the utmost faith in his ability to handle the current needs of the company with urgency, clarity and discretion."

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

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