"It's been a very painful two months.
No matter how you look at it, it has been ugly."
After reporting that the San Diego Opera was going to close in April 2014 based on a board vote of 33:1, this cultural institution has been given an encore performance through the community's financial generosity.
The resuscitation of the Opera began with the announcement on April 5, 2014 of a one million dollar gift from Carol Lazier who is now the board president, replacing former board chair Karen Cohn.
Then there was the April 17 drama queen board meeting where members were reported storming out of the closed-door session and resigning from the board all together.
Finally, on May 19, the San Diego Opera board announced rescinding the closure vote and announced the 2015 season.
The storm has calmed, but there is still wreckage and debris. The original 58-member board is now less than half of its original membership. The chief fundraising officer has left the organization. The ousted company director, Ian Campbell and his former wife and deputy director, Ann Spira Campbell, are negotiating a settlement from the Opera. And as of last week, the State Attorney General is investigating the Opera's finances.
In two months, the Opera has raised well over $4 million with approximately $2 million coming from a crowd fund sourcing campaign. The money raised through this platform, was placed into an escrow account to ensure that the donations would not be used to settle bankruptcy if the Opera closed. In order for the Opera to receive the funds, certain triggers had to be met like the announcement of the 2015 season and a threshold for funds raised.
However, the Opera has yet to reach its harmonious perfect pitch moving forward. This performing arts institution still needs to raise $6.5 million to meet the $10.5 million annual budget.
So, how is the Opera going to keep its "open" sign lit?
A member of the Opera's Development Department and Opera lover offered insight into the Opera's next steps: "The objective is to keep San Diego Opera alive and thriving well beyond 2015. In order to do that, I believe it is important to look at new methods to refresh a classic art-form and make it more accessible to all audiences."
• Cut costs. The Opera's 2015 annual budget has been reduced from the initial proposed $17 million. This source says, "it is important to produce Opera of the highest artistic quality and to look at a sustainable model that is creative and innovative -- one that represents the community."
• New donors. The crowd fund sourcing campaign broadened the Opera's donor base by bringing in donations from 38 states and multiple countries. It also attracted many first time donors who had never bought a ticket or subscription and individuals who bought tickets, but had never made a donation. These new donors will become the foundational support for the Opera in years to come.
• Younger audience members. Remember when it was said that the Opera is dying along with its patrons? My source agreed. "We can't rely on long-time donors and audience members to be the sole foundation of the future for San Diego Opera. For opera to survive and thrive, it will need new audience members and patrons who can grow alongside our loyal long-time donors. To do that, I feel it is important to be more innovative in the way we deliver opera and the performing arts in order to attract the younger generations and encourage an investment in the organization. It's important to make the opera experience accessible."
• Offer Transparency. The source stated that, "I think that community members and donors recognized the importance of the Opera in the community and wanted to see it survive. I also believe that they respected the transparency that the escrow account provided during the crowd fund sourcing -- thus inspiring an outpouring of enthusiasm and support." Continuing to be transparent with finances will only attract more support from the community.
Stay tuned for the next act of the San Diego Opera. Here's hoping for a happy ending for this cultural treasure.
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