San Diego Opera Receives $1M Donation

A board member gave the donation to spur management to explore new ways of doing business

 A San Diego Opera board member put her money where her mouth is in an effort to keep the institution running.

Opera officials announced Friday that board member Carol Lazier has donated $1 million to encourage the board to “rescind the dissolution vote as soon as possible” and “consider and explore realistic options from experts in the field,” according to a statement Lazier sent to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

After 49 years on the stage, the board announced March 19 that the 2014 season will be its final curtain call.

But last week, board members voted to delay the planned closure until April 29, giving them an extra two weeks to explore options.

Board President Karen Cohn said the opera would need at least $10 million to put on its 50th anniversary season.

In her statement, Lazier made it clear that her gift was not meant to start raising financial support for the company “as it exists today.”

Instead, the money is meant to help find financially stable ways to retool the opera with new fundraising models, a new repertoire and new cost saving measures – looking to other companies likes Dallas Opera for guidance.

“If we close, 400 jobs will be lost and all our assets, including our profitable scenic studio will be sold off,” Lazier wrote in her statement. “Our city's reputation will be tarnished. How can ‘America's finest city’ not have an opera company? Perhaps this is the blessing of a near death experience – the capacity to nurture this new life we have been given.”

The curtain opened Saturday for opening night of the company’s final opera, “Don Quixote.”

Some ticketholders said they bought seats specifically because this may be the last opera at the Civic Center.

“We said, ‘We’ve gotta go. This could be the last chance,’” said operagoer Robert Massey.

Chad Frisque with the White Knight Committee – created after the closure was announced – told NBC 7 he’s optimistic that the opera can be saved with continued support from it community of business owners, philanthropists and even school systems.

“What Ms. Lazier’s support means is that it’s basically saying to the rest of the board, and even those that are not part of the board, this is something we need to stand behind,” said Frisque.

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