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San Diego Opera cutting costs as part of effort to achieve stability

Originally posted by The Los Angeles Times
July 7, 2014

As San Diego Opera continues to regroup and work toward mounting its planned 2015 season, scheduled to begin in January, the troubled company has put cost-cutting measures in place that are expected to help it achieve a measure of financial stability.

Last week, San Diego Opera held its annual meeting, after which it was announced that the company is moving ahead with plans to move its headquarters in an effort to save more than $400,000 in rent each year. The opera’s administration has been using office space in downtown San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza, near its main performance venue, the Civic Theatre.

Opera leaders didn’t specify where the new offices would be located, except to say that they will be nearby and will be smaller and more economical.

The opera has said that it has reduced its annual operating budget to approximately $10.5 million. In past seasons, the company has reported budgets of around $15 million per year.

San Diego Opera announced staff reductions in May, with the laying off of 13 people. The reduction amounts to almost one-third of its staff.

In a statement last week, company officials said that they continue to “work on other cost reductions, always mindful of the need to expand its presence in the community and maintain high standards of artistic quality.”

The opera has previously said that pay cuts will be part of the cost-saving measures.

In May, San Diego Opera officially rescinded its decision to shut down, saying that it will have a 2015 season consisting of three mainstage productions, down from four in recent years. The company has raised several million dollars through crowdfunding and other efforts.

The opera said that its board of directors currently stands at 26 members, with Carol Lazier as the president. When the company announced in March its intention to close, the board numbered almost 60 individuals.

Many board members resigned in the subsequent weeks, which saw a significant public backlash and internal strife that led to the departure of Ian Campbell, the opera’s longtime artistic director.

William Mason, the former general director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, was appointed as the company’s new artistic advisor in May.

Last month, San Diego Opera said it will be teaming up with Dallas Opera to co-produce a new work by composer Jake Heggie. “Great Scott” is scheduled to premiere at the Dallas company in the fall of 2015. The two companies previously worked together on Heggie’s adaptation of “Moby-Dick.”

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