Might Chargers eye property occupied by opera studio?

Commercial Street area could be developed near stadium site

San Diego Opera — in an internal struggle over dissolving — owns a set-making studio at 3064 Commercial Street. This studio has built more than 50 new productions for San Diego Opera through the years and has produced sets for other opera and theater-arts organizations.

"My estimate is that it is worth five million bucks," says H. Eugene Myers, an attorney and real estate buyer who owns property in the area. "In the next couple of years the opera could possibly pick up a pretty sizeable chunk of change."

Myers owns property on Commercial Street from 28th to 32nd streets. On Saturday, April 12, he met with other real estate owners in that same area of Commercial Street. Myers had invited the other owners to come. Initially, he was concerned that the city would seize Commercial Street property from 28th to 32nd by eminent domain, knocking down the values.

At the meeting, he was told seizure was not likely, and he feels that Civic San Diego probably does not have the funds to go the eminent-domain route because of potential lawsuits and the like. However, he feels the parcels in that area could be converted to high-density residential and mixed uses — thus raising property values "at the stroke of a pen."

He invited Karen Cohn, chairwoman of the opera, to the meeting, but nobody from the organization showed up. Myers notes that when John Moores got a $300 million subsidy to build Petco Park, he was permitted to buy surrounding property at an extremely low price. (Some have estimated he raked in $700 million to $1 billion just in reselling that property to developers.) Myers says his own Commercial Street property enjoyed an increase of 50 to 60 percent because of Petco and the surrounding development, even though it was a long way away.

Myers believes the Spanos group does not want to develop the area around Qualcomm Stadium because of the plume under it and other reasons. Spanos might prefer to have a combined stadium and convention center but could settle for something else. Possibly, he would get property not too distant from Commercial Street and might try to put senior and affordable housing in the Commercial Street area as part of the stadiium package. Myers raised this possibility at the Saturday meeting, pointing out that since the trolley "would be the purveyor of people to the stadium," the idea is not out of the question. "There could be a bump in the value" of that Commercial Street property.

I reminded him that Mark Fabiani, PR representative for the Chargers, has suddenly shown up as PR for the opera on a pro bono basis. Could the opera's property on Commercial Street be a reason Fabiani is giving free time to the opera?

"It seems like a long shot," says Myers, who admits he was puzzled when Fabiani showed up at the opera. "There is a possibillity you could connect the two [the studio and Fabiani]."

Comments

I'm not so sure this real estate is important or valuable. Property South of Market street can be surprisingly reasonable by the square foot. I would call property value hikes from the proposed Convstadium a Field of Schemes. If you build it they will slum. The Gaslamp was thriving when Petco Park was built, but the developments around it didn't sell.

The Opera Studio value is part of the puzzle to be solved when the books are opened. If the present company shuts down, a group determined to save Opera and or the Theater Arts in San Diego should be given a chance to bid on the complete business.

Psycholizard: When I posted this, I stated it was a long shot. But Fabiani is clearly working for the Campbells and the coterie around them; the board didn't even know he would be hired, pro bono or not. If -- and I emphasize "if" -- the City and Chargers are working on a deal in which the Spanos empire would develop property (not at Qualcomm or the arena), this is a possibility. The City would like to see this area gentrified -- at least with senior and affordable housing and some commercial.

The opera studio may be worth $5 million as real estate, but the sets therein could draw some big offers, too. My recommendation is that the San Diego Opera drop back to two operas for next year -- only war horses for which it has sets and costumes already. It should try lighter fare -- Lehar, Offenbach, Gilbert & Sullivan, musicals, etc. in subsequent years if 2015 is a success.

Incidentally, San Diego Opera has sent out a questionnaire to people with questions such as how much could you give and how many operas would you attend. It is on San Diego Opera stationery. This raises a question: are the Campbells and the board coterie around them having second thoughts? Or was this sent out by the White Knights, the board's special committee, or the group of board members who want to save the opera? Since whoever sent it was permitted to use San Diego Opera stationery, my guess is that it was sent out by the special board committee. I have requested an answer and will post it as soon as I get it.

As to Petco, you are right: Moores made a bundle (up to a $billion) because he was permitted to buy land at early 1990s prices and sell it much dearer to developers. But the developments there have not been particularly successful in this market. That might not deter the Spanos family. Best, Don Bauder

Jim Ahab Boydston: I have never claimed to have a great mind. I got a tip from somebody on the inside and put in a call to Myers. It's a long shot, but it might be under consideration. Best, Don Bauder

QUESTIONNAIRE WAS SENT OUT BY BOARD'S SPECIAL COMMITTEE LOOKING INTO POSSIBILITY OF RESCUE. As I suspected, the questionnaire sent to potential opera attendees and donors was sent by the board's special committee looking into the survivability of the company. I alluded to it in my response to Psycholizard, above. Best, Don Bauder

ONE BOARD MEMBER WANTS TO STAY LONG ENOUGH TO VOTE FOR DISSOLUTION. According to excellent sources, socially-prominent Lee Clark has said she will stay on the opera board long enough to vote for dissolution. She may resign earlier. She is said to have attended a session by Opera America, which wants to keep the opera alive, before making her decision.

As I reported Sunday, Harry Suh, the board's vice president of finance, has also resigned. At the March 19 board meeting, he had recommended dissolution. He is said to believe he was manipulated; he was just handed a sheet of statistics and expected to make a quick decision. He has not returned my calls. It is also reliably reported that Tom Melody and Jeanne Jones have resigned from the board. Best, Don Bauder

One concern that is circulating is that there is lots of pressure or criticism being put on non-cooperating board members so they will resign, and therefore leave more members (on the side of Mrs. Cohn and the Campbells) to vote for dissolution. Clearly, there has been serious cleaving amongst the board members--even long time friendships are being threatened by the "what side are you on?" question. Really sad, and probably very bad in the long run for the entire not-for-profit charities in town.

Anon92067: There is no question that there is a serious split on the board. And, yes, there is pressure on those board and staff members who want to keep the opera going.

No doubt long-time friendships are being threatened. This happened in the early 1980s when Tito Capobianco left abruptly. All of us on the board, no matter on which side of the matter, lost friends. I am certain it is worse now, because by the time things erupted, Capobianco had already resigned and was on his way to Pittsburgh. The matter was settled. This one could go on a long time if the opera fails, as the Campbells desire, and some try to start a new company. In any case, there will be a battle if or when the assets go on the market. Best, Don Bauder

Anon92067: It is interesting that Ian Campbell, who initially gave information to San Diego media, including the Reader, then clammed up completely, was interviewed by the New York Times.

Ian Campbell wants to move to New York. Best, Don Bauder

I would imagine Ian won't be welcomed with open arms. And he'd be a mighty small fish in a big bowl. Would his ego survive?

Anon92067: Both Ian and Ann have hurt their reputations in the opera world -- no question about that. Best, Don Bauder

“We knew the problem was coming, We took rather dramatic action in cutting expenses. Nobody stepped back. We all tried to do what we could. These are the cold, hard facts rather than emotions.”. Ian Campbell

The dramatic action to save the Opera doesn't include forbearance of his own greed. The cold hard facts in the balance sheet are still secret. "We knew the problem was coming," but signed singers for next year, warned no one of their impending job loss, and kept spending unabated. And failed to tell wealthy members of the board!!! That anyone could believe this stuff amazes.

Psycholizard: Yes, that was a quote that people should have jumped on. He did not take dramatic action. Cutting from 5 to 4 operas was not sufficient. He and his wife Ann made just under $1 million combined in 2009, and then got a raise to above $1 million in the next season, when things were worsening. You are right: why sign the singers if one knows that insolvency lurks? Why keep things quiet except to the small coterie surrounding the Campbells? These are not cold, hard facts. Campbell is spouting the reverse of facts with such a statement. Best, Don Bauder

LETTER SAYS CAMPBELLS WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF OPERA SURVIVED. BUT LIKE VILAPLANA'S LETTER, IT MEANS LITTLE TO NOTHING BECAUSE IT DOESN'T INCLUDE KEY INFORMATION. Friends of Ian and Ann Campbell are circulating a letter from a lawyer, Michael J. Weaver, Esq. It was written to Abby Silverman Weiss, Esq., a lawyer who is very close to the Campbells and Faye Wilson. (I have been told by several people that she was the lawyer who interviewed staffers about a possible hostile work environment -- the employee complaint that seemed to die. I will attempt to clarify that.)

Weaver writes that he has looked over the employment agreements with both Campbells, Vilaplana's letter, and other documents. He goes on the assumption that the opera closes May 1, makes an assignment for the benefit of creditors or files for bankruptcy, and all employees, as unsecured creditors, will receive less than 100 cents on the dollar and in bankruptcy all claims for future wages are limited to one year of compensation.

You can see from these assumptions what is coming: "It is my professional opinion that both Campell and Spira Campbell would receive significantly greater benefits if the [San Diego Opera] were to continue in operation and will receive significantly less if the organization closes it's (sic) operations on May 1, 2014."

OF COURSE, given the assumptions and the lack of clarification. Weaver never says how long the opera would last if it doesn't close down May 1. If it were to go on for five years or so, or even fewer, the Campbells would receive more money in a going concern than a dead one, particularly if they continued getting the excessive compensation they are now getting.

Weaver's letter is as useless as Vilaplana's. Best, Don Bauder

ABBY SILVERMAN WEISS RESPONSIBLE FOR INVESTIGATION OF HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT. It is true. Abby Silverman Weiss, who is close to the Campbells and Faye Wilson, was the attorney responsible for the investigation of the employee complaint about the Campbells' alleged creation of a hostile work environment. Employees complain that nothing every happened after the interviews. Best, Don Bauder

Good on you, Don. Doesn't pass the sniff test.

And Weaver has a Fabiani connection...

Michael Weaver "has no affiliation with the opera or the Campbells", according to the recent UT article. But...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-13/wynn-seeks-to-probe-okada-s-venom-in-casino-showdown.html

"Michael Weaver, a spokesman for Wynn Resorts, declined to comment on the deposition." and "Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Elaine Wynn, declined to comment on her court filings."

OperaBuff: Good sleuthing. However, I am not yet convinced that Michael J. Weaver, retired partner of the San Diego office of Latham & Watkins, and the writer of the dubious letter about the opera, is the same Michael Weaver who is a spokesman for Wynn Resorts in Vegas.

However, I do find on his bio that Michael J. Weaver has clients in the professional sports industry. Pro sports (particularly the National Football League) have a long and symbiotic relationship with the gambling industry. (If you don't believe that, read Dan Moldea's book "Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football.")

It is no surprise that Fabiani, flack for the Chargers, is or has been a lawyer for the ex-wife of Steve Wynn, Las Vegas's casino mogul. Best, Don Bauder

Actually a list of clients in your very own publication... regarding Latham and Watkins

"Comings and goings The departure of Cliff Williams as chief-of-staff for San Diego city councilman Scott Peters is causing a bit of a stir at city hall. Williams, who has worked for Peters in one role or another for the past five years, is moving over to the downtown office of the big national law firm Latham & Watkins to become a "land-use analyst". According to city records, Latham lawyer Allen Haynie is currently lobbying the council on behalf of 12 clients, including the Chargers, which retained Latham on April 27. Other clients are developer Black Mountain Ranch, LLC; Liberty Station's Corky McMillin Companies; Centurion Partners; big box retailer Home Depot; and Allied Waste Industries.

The Chargers actually have two lobbyists working on their new stadium proposal; former Clinton-Gore campaign guru Mark Fabiani registered as a lobbyist for the team in January. He's said to be laboring to produce a possible Chargers-sponsored ballot measure that would end-run the city council by making the team's pitch for free Mission Valley land directly to voters. Having ex-city hall insider Williams on board to help push the measure might be invaluable to Stockton mega-millionaire Alex Spanos and son Dean, who own the team."

OperaBuff: Thanks. But what I am looking for is an indication that Michael J. Weaver, retired partner of the San Diego office of Latham & Watkins, was a spokesman for Wynn Resorts in Vegas. If I get it, I will post it immediately. I have not been able to find definitive indication. Best, Don Bauder

The full scheme depends on there being no bankruptcy, as has been claimed all along, in that case all debts would be paid. The lack of formal bankruptcy, and the failure to resign, suggests that management wants to control assets to the end, and pocket what they can without court supervision. And the unsaid again speaks the loudest, what precisely is the amount in total that management will receive? How much debt is secured by what assets? When will Ian Campbell give up control of the company he ruined? Who will take over for him?

Psycholizard: The Union-Tribune has a story this morning indicating that Carol Lazier, opera board member who gave $1 million to save the company, will present a survival plan to the board Thursday. It is based in part on advice given by the trade association, Opera America. (See item above on Lee Clark's plan to leave the opera -- following her attendance at the Opera America presentation.)

Lazier did not return my last phone call to her. Best, Don Bauder

She just gets Lazier, and lazier, and.........

Duhbya: Oh, dear. I set myself up for that one. I should have known that The Great Punster was lurking in the wings, waiting for an opportunity. Best, Don Bauder

I was groaning to myself as I typed, but that one was too delectable (for me) to pass up. Headed back to Lurkville now.

Duhbya: From what I have heard from other board members, her name is pronounced Lah-zee-AY. Try to make a pun out of that.

She talked with me early in the game, when she was on her way to Dallas to talk about opera-rescue strategies. She said she couldn't talk then, but might later. But when I tried to reach her again, she did not respond. Best, Don Bauder

So what she was really saying was "Lah-zee-AY" later. I smell a rat, by the way.

But I've been wrong before.

Duhbya: That one went right over my head. It's late and I am getting old. Best, Don Bauder

My attempts at humor can have that effect on people. Rest well.

Duhbya: Now that I think about it, I believe the pronunciation is LAH-zee-ay. Best, Don Bauder

And you nailed it the first time - doesn't appear to be much there to work with. I would have changed the pronunciation also, were that my name.

Duhbya: She recently got married but has kept the name Lazier. I think it's a great-sounding name. Best, Don Bauder

Oh, I agree. It sort of mellifluously unfurls as it is spoken. My comment about changing it was more indicative of decades spent observing the utter glee that countless wordsmiths displayed when they realized that omitting the first letter of my surname could prove to be great evidence of their fertile genius, as if they were the originators of the badger. "Sweeney? You mean Sweeney-weeney!" Of course, that didn't stop me from making a wiseacre crack about Ms. Lázier's name. Misery and company, you know.

Duhbya: Actually, the name Lazier makes me think of great French operas.. Best, Don Bauder

Man, THAT is the defining demonstration of staying on subject! ;>)

This sounds about right (or really, really wrong--really).

I wonder if the committee notes record the cooking up of this scheme? (Another reason it is so difficult to comply with the request from the 8 board members)? Would they have been that consciencious, while being that devious? White collar crime as committed by the upper crust, who never expect anyone to examine things too closely...

I am really hoping that the SD Opera Association will become the deus ex machina. It would be a triumph of the law in most amazing form! Monteverdi lives!!

eastlaker: I don't think there is evidence of white collar crime. There is enough for a civil lawsuit, yes -- but nothing criminal that I can see.

You love Monteverdi, too? We have seen L'Incoronazione di Poppea twice and have a great CD of it. We have a wonderful DVD of Orfeo. Best, Don Bauder

eastlaker: White collar crime is seldom punished these days. We have a plutocracy -- government by the superrich, and they own Washington D.C. Sometimes a hedge fund operator gets caught on insider trading, and even a Wall Street titan (Madoff) got caught (because he confessed to his sons) in a gigantic Ponzi scheme. But generally speaking, there are two levels of punishment -- one for the rich, another for the non-rich.

I guess I can quote an old poem again: "The law doth punish man or woman/ Who steals a goose from off the common./ But lets the greater felon loose/ Who steals the common from the goose." Best, Don Bauder

SINGERS' LABOR UNION SUES OPERA IN FEDERAL COURT, SEEKS TO COMPEL ARBITRATION; SAYS OPERA HAS NOT COOPERATED. The American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents San Diego Opera singers, filed suit yesterday (April 15) in U.S. district court. The union, representing 34 employee contracts with more than $1 million in claims, wants to compel arbitration.

The union says that it wrote the opera on March 20 -- the day after the vote to dissolve -- asking what arrangements the opera was making to pay the singers. The union wanted to be certain that since the opera intends to cease operations, the company would not dissipate its assets to other creditors, leaving the singers with no recourse upon a breach. Says the union in the suit, "[San Diego Opera] has still not provided any assurances that it will segregate assets sufficient to pay" those employees.

The attachments to the suit are interesting. On March 20, Alan Gordon, executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, wrote general director Ian Campbell and said the union might have to "institute litigation" to protect its members.

Ian Campbell wrote a biting letter back. "Thank you for your totally inappropriate threat which is unnecessary," wrong Campbell. "It is actually insulting. San Diego Opera will do what is necessary." Campbell then said that the opera has given the union members great service over the years. He said he would pass the letter to the opera's attorneys "at the appropriate time."

Best, Don Bauder

This is so slapdash, one should have the books cooked thoroughly before launching a scheme like this, that way you could respond for requests for money with bogus figures instead of arrogant personal attacks. We should remember that Ian Campbell started this run on the bank by proclaiming the Opera he controls unable to perform. Note that he calls the threat of litigation unnecessary and insulting, then says he will refer this to lawyers. Someone with a heart would try to detail when and what his employees might expect to be paid. This smells crazier and crazier.

Psycholizard: The union accuses Ian Campbell of operating in bad faith in this matter. I do think he went off half-cocked when he penned that letter to the union head. He is said to have a bad temper. Best, Don Bauder

STAFF OF OPERA DENOUNCES CAMPBELLS, WANTS NEW LEADERSHIP. SAYS IAN CAMPBELL THWARTS ATTEMPTS TO RESUSCITATE COMPANY. The White Knight Committee, made up of key employees of San Diego Opera, today (April 16), sent a letter to the board. The groups wants the board to stop the sale of assets, revote to keep the company going through 2015 and beyond, and seek new leadership.

The staff lists reasons it wants new leadership: "Ian Campbell has not put forth any effort to save San Diego Opera...when staff attempted to update the website with information, they were told to remove it and leave it off. These actions resulted in a loss of over 10,000 potential subscriber and donor contacts...Campbell saw this situation coming for three to five year yet raises were given to the entire staff. No one, not even department heads, was notified of the severity of the opera's fiscal troubles. Management did not ask departments to cut back, and expenses grew. Neither the employees, nor the donors, nor any of the public was told of the looming financial situation."

The results of the investigation into charges of a hostile work environment have been withheld from the board, say the White Knights. In 2008, staff offered to take a pay cut, but was discouraged. Chairwoman Karen Cohn claims to have seen the troubles coming for five years, but the Campbells got raises.

"We have been stopped, stifled, and directed to discontinue by the current leadership of the opera," say the staffers, noting "a complete failure [of leadership] to lead by example."

The board meets for a critical session tomorrow.

BOARD MEETING STILL GOING ON. THERE ARE MORE RESIGNATIONS, INCLUDING THAT OF FAYE WILSON, MOST POWERFUL PERSON ON BOARD. Today's (April 17) meeting of the San Diego Opera is still going on after 5 p.m. Several people have resigned, including Faye Wilson, who has been the most influential board member over a couple of decades. Iris Strauss, another powerful insider, is not at the meeting and some board members think she has resigned. Those who have resigned are probably protecting their assets.

The debate is between people who believe the opera can be saved, and those who think it should be killed now. Carol Lazier leads the first group, which is taking its information from Opera America, the trade group that thinks the company does not have justification to give up. A third group, which would be led by staff members, not board members, wants to start a new company.

The board has been told by a lawyer that if the company launches the 2015 season when it knows it does not have the funds, the company and presumably individuals could be charged with fraud. That is a major reason for the resignations. I hope to report more when I reach others. Best, Don Bauder

Don,

I know of no staff members that want to start a new Company when there is the framework of an excellent one already in place. I'm told 99% of the staff support Carol Lazier who brings a forward thinking vision to the Company. The rest support the closing of the Company and are Campbell loylalists. There are only two groups, this I have heard from multiple sources as well as the so called "White Knight Committee."

OperaBuff: The discussions at the Town Hall meeting at the Civic Center yesterday (April 17) suggest you are right and my source was wrong: the employees do want to save the current company -- overwhelmingly. Some may want to let the SDO die and start a new company, but they are in a distinct minority. Best, Don Bauder

KPBS reported Karen Cohn walked out, and may have resigned.

That "fraud" possibility seems far-fetched and fear-mongering to me. I wonder which lawyer told them that and if he/she had any conflicts of interest as Mr. Vilaplana clearly does?

Anon92067: Read the good news below from the board meeting. As I hear it, Cohn walked out, resigned, and Lazier took over. This is an excellent portent. Best, Don Bauder

KEY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO KILL OPERA RESIGN. CHAIRWOMAN COHN RESIGNS AND WALKS OUT. IRIS STRAUSS AND FAYE WILSON RESIGN. LAZIER TAKES THE GAVEL. HOPEFUL SIGNS THE OPERA CAN SURVIVE.This afternoon's opera board meeting lasted until after 6 p.m. and there is good news for those who want San Diego Opera to continue in business. Chairwoman Karen Cohn, who has been strongly in favor of dissolution, resigned and walked out, and Carol Lazier, who has given a million dollars toward saving the opera, took over the meeting as the new president.

The board heard a presentation from a former director of Minnesota Opera, who told how cost-cutting could save the organization 30% to 35%. He gave a fundraising goal for the opera to shoot for and said that financially, the opera can make it.

The opera board will be making an attempt to go to the membership. (Legally, the opera would have to go to membership if it intended to fold.) But now the members may be approached with a hopeful message.

The drop-dead date will probably be extended, but that may be announced tomorrow. Best, Don Bauder

A SAN DIEGO OPERA FOUNDER SAYS OPERA MUST DOWNSCALE, CHANGE ADMINISTRATION, RETURN TO ECONOMICAL EARLY DAYS. John Patrick Ford, one of the founders of San Diego Opera, and its first treasurer and second president, says the opera must return to the early days in which economies were first on the board's mind. It was a working, dedicated board. Today's board of 58 people is unwieldy. Ford says the $2.5 million production of Verdi's Masked Ball was "the finest San Diego Opera has ever done," but only 68% of the seats were filled. That shows that the opera must make cuts. He also says, "It is time for a change in administration." (It has been reported that Ian and Ann Campbell walked out of the board meeting today, but that has not been confirmed.) Ford was essentially the one who hired Ian Campbell.

Ford attended a meeting at the Civic Center put on by staff members and others. Attendance was around 500, Ford says. The consensus was overwhelmingly for the opera to continue and for the top administration to change.

Several things went wrong at San Diego Opera in the recent years, says Ford. "Development was focused on a small group" largely made up of wealthy people from Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla, and Del Mar. The opera now needs a "broad-based membership" and can accomplish that by altering the repertoire to do works such as American musicals, says Ford. Best, Don Bauder

BOARD'S MARCH 19 VOTE TO DISBAND WAS NOT LEGAL. BOARD HAD TO GO TO MEMBERS. A lawyer familiar with state laws applying to nonprofits says that for any group to disband, the membership has to vote, too. The opera board voted to disband on March 19 and did not poll members.

California Corporate Code 6610 and 6611, which deal with any attempt to dissolve, state that there must be a Certificate of Dissolution filed with the state before the closedown an go ahead. The opera has members. To disband it will have to have a majority agreement of all the members, or an agreement of a majority of the members at a properly noticed members' meeting at which there is a quorum. This matter was initially brought up by KPBS.

The current board -- which has lost a number of those who wanted the opera to disband -- has plans to get members together. The majority of the board now appears to favor the opera company attempting to go forward. Best, Don Bauder

Excellect news! So glad to hear that this less-than-honorable effort to shut down SD Opera has been challenged and stopped!

I admit to be somewhat confused that there is a staff group that wants to form an entirely new organization. I hope that there will be no further splintering, and that this community can pull together.

Thanks, Mr. Bauder, for indefatigably following this story. It is great to know that the real story is being told!

eastlaker: It appears -- repeat, APPEARS -- that the board is going in the right direction: toward survival. But there is a long way to go. A lot of money has to be raised. For that to happen, the Campbells have to go, I am told by many people. Ian did a great job for a long time, but he and Ann refused to change repertoire, fundraising, marketing, and refused to make the cuts necessary. The opera, if it is to survive, has to go to a whole new model. I will discuss that in the post below -- an interview with Nic Reveles. Best, Don Bauder

TOWN HALL MEETING AT CIVIC CENTER HEARS OF NEW MODELS A REVIVED OPERA CAN ADOPT. About 500 people attended this afternoon's Town Hall meeting at the Civic Center, says Nic Reveles, the opera's director of education and outreach. Reveles, along with other staff members, is leading the movement to revivify the opera, instead of give up the ghost.

"The energy was incredibly positive," says Reveles of the meeting. It was sponsored by the White Knights, a group of staffers; Carol Lazier, who now heads the opera following Karen Cohn's resignation this afternoon, and her husband Jay Merritt, also a board member, paid for the meeting.

Marc Scorca of Opera America and David Devan of Opera Philadelphia "had some interesting, different models," says Reveles. For example, modern operas could be produced in an intimate setting, attracting a younger but smaller audience. (Under Ian Campbell, modern operas in the 3000-seat Civic Center were not a good draw.) "There is lots of money out there for new works," says Reveles, saying there are seven commissions for new works around the country right now. "The opera might put on two or three operas in the grand style in the Civic Theater," but then put on the modern works at the smaller venues.

Reveles says that Barrio Logan neighbors of the opera's scenic studio could be invited to see an opera performance there. "Community outreach is critical for us right now," he says. Scorca and Devan presented other ideas for keeping an opera together. Devan inherited a nearly-broke company when he came to Philadelphia. He met with a group of board members regularly and planned new strategies. That's what San Diego Opera needs: new strategies. Best, Don Bauder

This is great news, perhaps the Opera will now be run by those determined to present Opera. I suspect we will see more surreal antics, but a leader of the Board of Directors determined to go forward is a necessary start. Let's put on a show.

Psycholizard: Yes, the momentum is going in the right direction. There is a big hill to climb (fundraising), and a lot of tough planning to do, but for the first time I am beginning to think a rescue is doable. Best, Don Bauder

For those who worry that under a new plan "grand" opera would disappear, Philadelphia's manager said EVERYTHING the opera does must be of the highest quality. He furthered that because of their complete change in strategy and programming, the quality of and attendance at their three "grand" operas is better than ever in it's history. It would be impossible for any company to surpass the quality of several of SD's productions of the last two years. But as all the panelists pointed out, that same quality could have come at a lower cost. Statistics are showing that presenting free outdoor transmissions, and at least four full scale productions of new and rarely performed operas in smaller venues has resulted in higher attendance at the Warhorses' productions. At the forum, someone from Escondido pointed out that perhaps some regular use of their splendid venue could have prevented it's announced closure.

maxgozesky: John Patrick Ford told me that San Diego Opera just can't afford to spend $2.5 million on an opera attended by 68% of the house. In the opera's early days, the board was very cognizant of costs and keeping them in line. In the Capobianco years, costs ran away on the upside, greatly because of the summer Verdi Festival which was drawing only 40%, if memory serves me right. Elsie Weston and Ford put their feet down, and an indignant Capobianco resigned.

Then Campbell saved the company. It is ironic that in the last eight years, he didn't watch costs sufficiently. Best, Don Bauder

Most of the City can't afford regular attendance at current prices. The discussion often ignores this. I don't attend primarily because of price. I became a fan in the Seventies, when the prices for students were similar to the movies. Nowadays I can barely afford the movies and even the tickets to the cheap seats at the Opera cost many times movie tickets.

Even for those making many times what I live on, price is a consideration. Many would attend every night if they could afford good seats. When a well advertised product doesn't sell, generally it's because it's not worth the price. Efforts to increase the worth, by spending lots of money, have failed to fill the seats. If we accept the premise that the product is of a higher quality, and opening night is well attended, then the empty seats likely are due to price.

Psycholizard; If San Diego Opera survives -- and keep your fingers crossed -- one of the first things it must address is pricing. San Diego is not a wealthy city, and the cost of living is exceedingly high. Also, there are so many outside leisure activities that are free. That must be taken into account. Best, Don Bauder

I think Myers is blowin' smoke. What else to expect, other than inflated property value hype, from "an attorney and real estate buyer who owns property in the area"?

That area of Commercial, geographically distant from any kind of development activity, is light-years from being a point of interest to developers.

As for the Chargers and the Mill's daily hype, you have to love the juxtaposition of two photos and headlines today. It's a Tale of Two Spins. See photos.

HonestGovernment: It's possible that you are right -- that area of Commercial Street is a long way from development. I said on the blog that this was speculative. But, actually, I could see a deal in which the Chargers or their partners agree to develop a part of that area. Everybody thinks the quid pro quo could be rights to develop the Qualcomm or arena areas -- further distant from a proposed stadium than that area of Southeast San Diego. Qualcomm and the arena could be economically unenticing, too. Best, Don Bauder

I do not think Philly would be spending 2.5 million for any opera. Sometimes donors want to see a production so badly, they are willing to pick up a big share of the cost. Mrs. Broad of LA said her husband wouldn't go with her to a Ring Cycle in Europe, so she talked him into sponsoring one in LA. a la Campbell, Domingo spent far too much, and LA Opera almost came close to failure because of that. When it soared to over 15 mil, even Broad pulled out. (Domingo ruined the DC Opera, and they were never even able to produce the last two operas of the Ring.) I believe the change can be successful, but it didn't happen over night in Philly, nor will it here. If we can keep our orchestra in the pit & guest conductors, we can still have better productions than LA or San Fran. Lots of great young singers out there waiting for a chance. Fringe is proving to be very successful. Those guys, La Jolla Symphony,Point Loma College, Southwestern College & many other local groups should be brought in as partners. As the music teacher from Escondido indicated, the suburban schools as well as SD schools would welcome opera affiliation. People from here drive to Long Beach. I'm sure we could do as well as Long Beach in providing fresh new approaches.

Maxgozesky: I watched a U-Tube of the Philadelphia general director telling how that company has seemingly been rescued. I doubt that modern operas in small venues would go over in San Diego. Philly has the Curtis Institute of Music. San Diego has nothing comparable. Attendance at modern opera in San Diego has been pretty low. The same is true for Handel operas, I understand.

However, chamber operas, such as by Mozart and Handel, might pay for themselves in smaller venues. Works by Offenbach, Lehar, Gilbert & Sullivan could work in a smaller venue. Handel's Acis und Galatea requires very few singers and is a delightful piece. A lot of operas can be done in a small theater; Central City, Colorado, has proved that. Best, Don Bauder

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