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San Diego Opera to call it quits at end of 2014 season

originally posted by The Los Angeles Times
March 19, 2014

It will be curtains for the venerated San Diego Opera.

In a surprising move, the company announced Wednesday that it will cease operations at the end of the current season, citing financial reasons including a tough fundraising environment and weak ticket sales.

The company said its board made the decision Wednesday to avoid declaring bankruptcy and to be able to honor its remaining commitments.

San Diego Opera, which was created close to 50 years ago, has a strong national reputation and is ranked among the top 10 U.S. opera companies, according to the national nonprofit Opera America. The San Diego company’s final production at the Civic Theatre will be Massenet’s “Don Quixote,” which will run from April 5 to 13.

“Over the last of several years, we have lost a number of prominent contributors, frequently because of death, but especially during the recent economic downturn,” Ian Campbell, the company’s general director, said in a phone interview.

He said ticket sales have also been declining.

“The demand for opera in this city isn’t high enough,” he said.

The company had cut the number of productions per season to four from five, and it reduced the total number of performances. It had also laid off some of its staff, which stands at 40.

The company earns close to 40% of its income from the box office and relies on donations for the rest, Campbell said.

The budget has been balanced for 28 consecutive years, the company said, though financial records show that for the 2011 and 2010 fiscal years, which are the two most recent years for which records are public, the company posted deficits.

For the 2011 fiscal year, San Diego Opera had expenses of $15.3 million, according to financial records. Ticket revenue for the same year was about $6.3 million, and donations were $5.5 million. That last figure represents a significant decline from 2007, when donations totaled $9.7 million.

San Diego will be the latest in a line of prominent opera companies to close. Last year, New York City Opera officially shut down after 70 years.

San Diego Opera’s decision will leave only one major opera company in Southern California: the Los Angeles Opera. In 2008, Opera Pacific in Orange County shut down because of financial difficulties.

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