San Diego Opera

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The San Diego Opera Association (SDO) is a professional opera company located in the city of San Diego, California. It incorporated in 1965, presenting operas under the name of the San Diego Opera, [1] it is a member of the professional association OPERA America, which ranked it among the top ten opera companies in the United States. [2]

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

San Diego City in California, United States

San Diego is a city in the U.S. state of California. It is in San Diego County, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 8.8 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.


The company was founded in 1950 as the San Diego Opera Guild, [1] originally to present traveling productions by San Francisco Opera in the San Diego area. SDO began to stage its own productions in 1965, its first one being La bohème . From the beginning, the company performed at the San Diego Civic Theatre in Downtown San Diego. Until the 2008 recession, it presented five operas each season; in 2008 this was reduced to four productions, scheduled from January to April.

San Francisco Opera opera company based in San Francisco, United States, performing in the War Memorial Opera House

San Francisco Opera (SFO) is an American opera company, based in San Francisco, California.

<i>La bohème</i> opera by Giacomo Puccini

La bohème is an opera in four acts, composed by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The world premiere of La bohème was in Turin on 1 February 1896 at the Teatro Regio, conducted by the 28-year-old Arturo Toscanini; its U.S. premiere took place the following year, 1897, in Los Angeles. Since then, La bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide.

San Diego Civic Theatre

The San Diego Civic Theatre is a 2,967-capacity performing arts venue located in downtown San Diego, California. It is the performing home of the San Diego Opera and hosts other entertainment such as concerts and musicals. The facility opened in 1965.

In March 2014 the opera board announced that the 2014 season would be its last, [3] but this decision was later rescinded by the company's board of directors, and a cut down version of the already planned 2015 season was announced, reducing the number of titles from four to three. [4]


The founding SDO general director was Walter Herbert, who served in that position from 1965 until his death in 1975. Tito Capobianco served as general director from 1976 to 1983, during which time he "expanded the season to six productions, featuring renowned superstars such as Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti and Beverly Sills", [1] as well as beginning an annual two-opera Verdi Festival [1] which ceased in 1984 after his departure.

Walter Herbert was an American conductor and impresario of German birth, and also a world champion at contract bridge.

Tito Capobianco Argentine opera director

Tito Capobianco was an Argentine American stage director of opera.

Joan Sutherland Australian soprano

Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE was an Australian-born coloratura soprano noted for her contribution to the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s through to the 1980s.

The resident conductor of SDO is Karen Keltner. Since 2005, SDO's principal guest conductor has been Edoardo Müller.

Edoardo Müller was an Italian conductor who was chiefly recognized for his interpretations of bel canto operas. A frequent guest conductor with opera houses internationally, he had a lengthy association with the San Diego Opera which spanned 31 years. He was also an accomplished pianist who accompanied several notable singers in recitals and concerts; including Carlo Bergonzi, Renato Bruson, Montserrat Caballé, José Carreras, Leyla Gencer, Elena Obraztsova, and Renata Tebaldi. His work is preserved on recordings made for the Philips, BMG, Bongiovanni, and Orfeo record labels. He served as conductor for Joyce DiDonato's 2009 CD Colbran, the Muse: Rossini Opera Arias.

Between 1983 and May 2014, the general director was Ian Campbell who achieved considerable success as well as creating financial stability for the company. [1] Campbell left the company in May 2014, following his contentious recommendation to shut down the opera.

Ian David Campbell is an Australian-born opera singer, stage director, administrator, radio broadcaster and writer. He was the General Director and Artistic Director of San Diego Opera from 1983 until 2014. In the 1960s and 1970s he sang opera as a tenor, then moved into opera management.

Following Campbell's departure, it was announced on May 30 that former director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, William Mason, had been appointed to the newly created position of artistic adviser to SDO. [5] Mason commented, "They want me to help guide the company though the next season or two....I'll finalize some artistic and production details, help reduce expenses and get the board and the staff working together to figure out what the company can and should do as it moves forward." [5]

In March 2015 the company announced the hiring of David Bennett, executive director of the Gotham Chamber Opera, as General Director of the San Diego Opera. He will start on June 15, 2015. [6]

Notable performers

Since 2005, musicians from the San Diego Symphony have performed as the pit orchestra for San Diego Opera. [7]

Notable artists, in addition to those named above, who have performed with San Diego Opera include Ferruccio Furlanetto, Denyce Graves, Richard Bonynge, Richard Leech, Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Jane Eaglen, Richard Margison, Jerry Hadley, Vivica Genaux, Isabel Bayrakdarian, James Westman and Carol Vaness. [8]

Notable productions include the world premieres of Gian Carlo Menotti's La Loca (1979, written for and starring Beverly Sills), Myron Fink's The Conquistador (1993), and Alva Henderson's Medea. United States premieres included Daniel Catán's Rapaccini's Daughter , Hans Werner Henze's Der junge Lord , Riccardo Zandonai's Giulietta e Romeo, and Emmanuel Chabrier's Gwendoline . [8]

Additional notable performances and productions include the farewell performance of Beverly Sills opposite Joan Sutherland in Die Fledermaus ; [9] the San Diego Opera-commissioned productions by Zandra Rhodes of The Magic Flute (2001) [10] and The Pearl Fishers (2004); [11] and the West Coast premieres of Giuseppe Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco and I Lombardi , and of Sergei Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges . [8]

Proposal to close the company, March/April 2014

On March 19, 2014, the opera's board of directors voted to cease operations after its final performance on April 13, 2014, citing diminishing audiences and increasing costs. [12] The announcement came as a shock to the public, because the company has no debt and had given no hint it was contemplating closure; director Campbell explained that the board decided to "wind down with dignity and grace" rather than become bankrupt. [13] However, at a special board meeting on March 31, the board voted to delay the closure until April 29, to allow more time for major donors to come forward [14] and to consider other options that could possibly save the 2015 season. Meanwhile, the labor union representing singers, chorus members and production personnel filed several complaints with the National Labor Relations Board about the decision to cease operation. [15]

In a dramatic meeting on April 17, the opera's board of directors voted to extend the shutdown deadline at least until May 19. The chairman of the board and twelve other board members resigned. Board member Carol Lazier was chosen as acting president; she proposed that the opera reorganize rather than shut down. The national organization Opera America was reported to be working with board members to come up with a list of possible savings and reforms. [16]

On April 25 it was announced that director Campbell and his ex-wife, who is also a high-ranking administrator with the opera, had both been placed on paid administrative leave, and that the opera board was launching a crowdsourcing campaign with a goal of raising $1 million to help underwrite a 2015 season. [17]

On May 15 it was announced that Campbell and his former wife would be leaving the company [18] After a meeting of the board of directors on May 16, the board voted to rescind the decision to close.

2015 season

In May 2014 the board announced plans for a 2015 season consisting of three operas, La boheme , Don Giovanni , and John Adams' Nixon in China , at the same time stating that its goal was to raise $6.5 million but that $4 million had already been raised (including $2.1 million from crowdfunding). [4]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Company History" Archived 2014-07-02 at the Wayback Machine . on Retrieved 2 June 2014
  2. David Ng (2014), "San Diego Opera will close, in 'a sign of the times'", Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2014
  3. "SAN DIEGO OPERA TO CEASE OPERATIONS AFTER 2014 SEASON", company press release, March 19, 2014
  4. 1 2 David Ng, "San Diego Opera reverses decision to close, announces 2015 season", Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2014
  5. 1 2 John von Rhein, "Former Lyric chief to advise San Diego Opera", The Chicago Tribune, May 30, 2014 on
  6. Chute, James (March 10, 2015). "David Bennett to lead San Diego Opera". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  7. Preston Turegano (2006), "The opera's proving to be a boon for symphony's musicians", San Diego Union Tribune, 22 January 2006.
  8. 1 2 3 "Performance History" Archived 2015-09-25 at the Wayback Machine ., San Diego Opera website.
  9. Chris Pasles (2007), "Soprano brought opera home", Los Angeles Times, 3 July 2007
  10. Ginia Bellafante (2001) "Zandra Rhodes expands her range.", The New York Times, 3 January 2001
  11. James C. Whitson (2008), "Perles before Swine", Opera News , October 2008, vol. 73, no. 4
  12. Beth Accomando, Megan Burke, Tarryn Mento (2014), "San Diego Opera Announces Current Season Will Be Its Last", KPBS, March 19, 2014
  13. James Chute (2014), "San Diego Opera votes to fold", San Diego Union-Tribune , March 19, 2014
  14. "San Diego Opera Board Votes To Delay Shutdown By 2 Weeks". KPBS. March 31, 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  15. Moran, Greg (April 2, 2014). "Opera union files second NLRB complaint". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  16. Kragen, Pam (April 18, 2014). "S.D. Opera closure postponed to May 19; Newly reconstituted board will use time to raise money for 2015 season". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  17. Ng, David (April 25, 2014). "San Diego Opera places general director Ian Campbell on leave". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  18. David Ng, "San Diego Opera officially parts ways with director Ian Campbell", Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2014

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