San Diego Opera director saw writing on wall years ago

Opera to cease operations in April

SAN DIEGO - While the closing of the San Diego Opera may have been a surprise to the public, its artistic and general director claims he saw it coming three years ago.

Ian Campbell told 10News Thursday that he knew it would take $100 million to stabilize the organization.

News of closing dropped like a bombshell Wednesday.

"Our family has been coming to the opera since 1968," season-ticket holder Gordon Gilbreath told 10News. "So I was 7 when we started coming."

He and his mother Linda have had season tickets since then. Gilbreath said he was stunned to hear about the sudden closure.

Cambell explained that the 49-year-old organization relies on only two sources of revenue, and neither recovered after the recession.

"And that is both dwindling audience and decreased donations," Campbell said. "We lost about $3 million in just a couple of years."

According to Campbell, board members have been privately reaching out to major donors for the last few years, but the money just dried up. Sixty percent of its $15 million annual budget came from these endowments.

Then there was the issue of Campbell's salary, which some criticized for being too high. 10News obtained tax returns for the opera and found that in 2012 he made approximately $508,000 in total compensation.

"It is significant, there's no question," Campbell said. "But I do two jobs -- I'm artistic director and general director."

Campbell's wife Ann was also on the payroll. She made $282,345 in 2012.

In response to Campbell's disclosure, 10News looked into the financial health of two other local cultural institutions -- The Old Globe and the San Diego Symphony -- and asked why they seem to be thriving.

While the Opera's audience and donations have been declining, The Old Globe theatre in Balboa Park is experiencing the opposite. Artistic Director Barry Edelstein said ticket sales are up 25 percent since 2006, and philanthropy is also trending up. He believes it is because the Globe's productions have evolved with modern audiences.

"We did a rock musical last year that had a young audience coming out for the first time," Edelstein said. "And our annual holiday classic 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' had its biggest ever year last year because of the family audience coming out."

San Diego Symphony CEO Ward Gill told 10News his organization is more vital than ever before. This is thanks in a large part to the recent $100 million donation by Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. The symphony was in bankruptcy court when that donation came in. Otherwise, the symphony may have had the same fate as the opera.

The Opera will stage one performance of Verdi's "Requiem" March 20, and four performances of Massenet's "Don Quixote" April 5, 8, 11 and 13, before ceasing operations.

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