San Diego Opera Gone, Art Is Worth Saving
Yesterday, the San Diego Opera announced it was going out of business June 30, after 49 years. Director Ian Campbell used a “better get out before it’s to late” card to explain the company’s sudden and perhaps unnecessary demise. In fact, the San Diego Opera is fiscally secure at present, and is located on one of America’ wealthiest and most attractive cities. Why bail at 49? After fifty it’s a piece of cake.
Campbell’s board predicted a paucity of support in the immediate future. The usual song and dance (HA!). Audiences aging out and not being replaced. Opera is irrelevant anyway. Children are starving. The Met in HD is robbing audiences.
It has always been easy to excuse not supporting the arts and it has always been difficult to keep the Verdi- Mozart- Strauss -Wagner ship afloat. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. The visceral thrill of a fine chorus, orchestra and soloists telling a story amid splendid sets is as powerful today as it was 200 years ago.
But our senses are not what they were: deadened by electronic media.
Sutherland, Sills, Pavarotti, Siepi, Merrill, Price, Caballe, Callas are all dead or retired. Star power is rare: Juan Diego Florez and Renee Fleming come to mind. The Sutherland et al group sang frequently in San Diego. Their fees topped the national debt but nobody cared. They sold out the house three times over every night. When was the last time you stood in line for five hours for standing room. I did it regularly-you HAD to-up until 1990.
What we have here folks is a board that doesn’t want to be bothered. You’ll never convince me that support has died up in San Diego (Omaha maybe and Opera Omaha thrives!)
It’s not that people can’t make that phone call, it’s that people no longer want to. Hustling support for the arts has never been easy and it isn’t easy now. But a full theater equals restaurant meals, taxes, garage parking fees and a whole lot of money flowing into a city providing an evening’s entertainment. People should think before again.
The Met in HD presentations sell briskly and they are wonderful. Yes, they are largely attended by the elderly. Live opera, on the other hand attracts quite the hot date night crowd here in Columbus and in every other mid-sized city where I’ve been in the audience (older and without a date) Young people are NOT staying away. They like the all -enveloping sound, they like the visual, they like being dressy (or not) and the love, blood, sex and death aren’t bad either. Work hard. The art form is worth saving, and serving.