Finale or interlude?

Ian Campbell headed to altar for third time

Ian Campbell and Susan Neves
  • Ian Campbell and Susan Neves

Ian Campbell, former chief executive of San Diego Opera, is engaged to opera soprano Susan Neves (pronounced "nevs") and the two will live in New York City, according to sources within San Diego Opera and information online. Three years ago, Neves was singing the lead role in Puccini's Turandot in Pittsburgh. She had a friendly TV interview there in which she discussed how she had lost 162 pounds, initially through a gastric bypass. She had come down from 300 pounds, she said.

This will be the third marriage for Campbell. He married singer Rachel Gettler in 1982; they divorced two years later. He came to San Diego as head of San Diego Opera in 1983, and in 1985 married Ann Spira of the opera staff. The two were the highest-paid executives of San Diego Opera — bringing in much more than comparable executives at other opera companies. Their inordinately high pay became quite controversial. They divorced in 2012. They have two sons.

Earlier this year, Campbell tried to close down San Diego Opera quickly, claiming it had no financial future. Initially, the board voted with him, but then some board members came forward to try and save the company. That process is now well underway. Campbell officially left San Diego Opera on May 15 of this year. From the time he tried to close down the opera, it was reported in the Reader that he was planning to live with a female singer in New York City.

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I wish the couple every happiness.

Is the California AG still investigating the debacle that almost happened?

Back from the edge, let's hope SD Opera manages to mend fences with all those Mr. Campbell undeservedly gave short shrift to. Apparently Mr. Campbell felt that anyone who was "local" was not good enough for SD Opera. The short-sightedness of this mindset is very clear: what if people at SF Opera thought that way? Then, Fredericka Von Stade wouldn't have been allowed to sing in San Francisco, as she was living across the bay in Alameda.

I certainly hope that all singers who have been treated this way remind SD Opera that they are here, they are talented, and they are ready and willing.

The best way to demonstrate that SD Opera is alive and well is to welcome available talent, embrace it and find a place for it.

eastlaker: Some wonderful operas were staged in Campbell's reign. He used to go to Europe regularly to recruit great singers. But that proved to be entirely too expensive. He could have done just as well -- or almost as well -- using American artists who don't prefer to be international stars.

I wish Ian Campbell and his fiance the best, too. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, some very wonderful operas were staged by Campbell. But I still wonder if the investigations are ongoing. I am inclined to think that there was more than a little "rannygazoo" that took place with regard to the endowment, entertainment expenses, perks given to big donors, etc. Not to mention the tax element--if the big donors claimed the entire amount as a deduction, when in fact they quite easily could have benefitted from their level of donation.

But I am delighted the opera exists. What would be really great would be if under the new management the opera could flourish, be enjoyed by many new fans and bring all this to parts of this area for whom it is relatively unknown. They seem to be poised for that very thing.

Wish them the best of luck and many years of happiness.

Eastlaker, the CA Attorney General audit is still underway, these things can take a very long time I believe.

Don, I seem to recall reading of an earlier marriage by Mr. Campbell, making this his 4th.

OperaBuff: I checked Wikipedia, which only mentioned Gettler and Ann Spira. But it is possible he was married earlier and it has been hushed up. If you know where I can go to pin an earlier marriage down, let me know. Best, Don Bauder

eastlaker: I definitely want to know who paid for Campbell's regular trips to Europe, purportedly to scout out talent. Campbell and Ann Spira Campbell not only had absurdly high salaries, but got extra-generous perks, too.

One of the big mistakes was ignoring the community and going for the bulk of funding from the Beautiful People of La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe. The opera put their pictures in booklets, fawned all over them -- and then they walked out.

I am rooting for the new San Diego Opera. I think it can make it. It has its eyes on the balance sheet. And it is going out in the community to get donors and audiences. Best, Don Bauder

Don, the secret to success in show business is SINCERITY. Once you learn how to FAKE THAT you've got it made... and Herr Campbell played La Jolla like a violin. Start spreadin' the news. I'm leaving today. I want to BE A PART OF IT . . NEW YORK! NEW YORK! Where a shoot out at the OK Coral will be between Opera America and Herr Campbell.. OY!

shirleyberan: Campbell started his career as an opera singer in Australia. He is now in his late 60s, however. He may not be as good as he once was. Most opera singers fade noticeably at that age. Generally, he had comprimario, or supporting roles in his singing days, which ended in the 1970s. Best, Don Bauder

She hopes that he will be as good as he once was or at least as good once as he was.

Yeah, that's IF they actually get to the altar OR maybe he's just playing sin-fonietta.

shirleyberan: That is the first non-musical use of the word "sinfonietta" that I have ever heard. Congratulations. Is it original with you? Or am I just too old and out of it to know today's hip language? Best, Don Bauder

Searched for a musical word and it seemed functional. I think it works with a pattern this guy has of not being truthful all over the place. Serial marriages are avoidance of something too, surely. Don - If not for you I wouldn't have known to look at opera jargon.

shirleyberan: A sinfonietta is a short symphony, or one using fewer instruments than the conventional symphony, or a small symphony orchestra. It is not considered part of opera jargon, but is definitely a classical music term. Best, Don Bauder

It's sweet that people wish them happiness but I would change this act to have her come out of the fog, walk across the stage to where he is already standing and OFortuna, "Sorry Ian, I changed my mind. I don't want to get married. Nothing personal. Bye." Exeunt.

shirleyberan: I can't see how the abrupt breaking off of an engagement would be "nothing personal." But I won't argue with you. Best, Don Bauder

shirleyberan: In the National Football League, you might get fined. Best, Don Bauder

John Menier: You cannot see how Susan Neves's weight has anything to do with this item. I see your point, but I disagree. The weight of male and female opera singers is widely discussed. If you are an overweight opera star, you can't avoid this spotlight. (Think: Pavarotti, Jane Eaglen.) When you suddenly lose 100 pounds or so, you certainly can't avoid talking about it openly.

For example, Deborah Voigt, one of the greatest sopranos of the day, had gastric bypass in 2004 and lost more than 100 pounds. It was big news, because opera audiences were used to seeing a corpulent Deborah. She discussed it freely, just as Susan discusses her operation and resultant weight loss freely. If you go online, you will see an interview of Susan with a Pittsburgh TV station. She discusses the topic happily. Best, Don Bauder

But Don, we're not talking about her career here, we're talking about an engagement - which is a personal matter. So perhaps more pertinent to the story would have been "Neves recently sang in San Diego Opera's production of Murder in the Cathedral, an opera that had not been performed in the America since the 50's. Campbell directed the production." In fact, it's very possible this is where they met and began their relationship. This has more bearing on the story than her previous weight. Regardless, wish them the very best in their new city. And wish I could lose 162 pounds as well...

OperaBuff: I didn't know she sang in Murder in the Cathedral and didn't know Ian directed the production. That is good information. Best, Don Bauder

She is probably feeling pretty good about her body after the physical transformation. Why does she feel the need to get stuck to a user-loser like that guy?

shirleyberan: Yes, I am sure she feels better about her body. Best, Don Bauder

And yes Don, "it's personal" is less debatable as is "it's not you, it's me".

shirleyberan: I think if one person breaks off an engagement, the two should have a full discussion of the reasons. If she tells him that he is a jerk, then he may learn to act differently the next time around. Best, Don Bauder

I want to thank him for some truly ridiculous escapades, even as I urge the accountants to search the books. His attempt to address the audience at his final show brought art and life together magically. Like a character in a play, he was oblivious to his comic pride. He made obvious his plan to leave town by dissing this city, which changed him from flopping tenor to pompous ass. NYC will cut him back to size. If his fiance' still wants him to walk the dogs in Central Park after he loses one hundred pounds from the neck up, bless them both, that's love.

Psycholizard: That was not a good performance, admittedly, and probably intensified the hostility. His criticism of San Diego did not help. He has made similar remarks before. Best, Don Bauder

Lizard I didn't mean to touch that ffr. I hear you brother. Don - in the tradition of Italy all you gotta say is "Fuggettaboutit".

shirleyberan: I thought "fuggeddaboudit" was indigenous to New York City. Best, Don Bauder

What do you mean not a good performance? That speech and the chorus of boos is the stuff of legend, to be remembered long after we're gone. This is what makes theater so vital, no one really knows what will happen, and the crowd sometimes takes over.

Psycholizard: We're hung up on the word "performance." You are thinking of that incident as great, emotion-rising theater -- a moment that will be long remembered. I was thinking of "performance" as Campbell unsuccessfully trying to convince an audience that his plan to kill the opera was a good idea. Under that definition, it was not a good performance. Under yours, it was splendid theater. Best, Don Bauder

The play flopped as tragedy, but was a triumphant farce. Long live Opera!

Psycholizard: Not many operas succeed in both. The closest may be Der Rosenkavalier. It's called a comedy but it is very sad and moving. Best, Don Bauder

How about something called "The Impresario's Escape"? Which it may or may not be.

eastlaker: Mozart wrote an opera (singspiel, actually) called "The Impresario." In German: "Der Schauspieldirektor." Mozart wrote four of the greatest operas ever written, and three other operas that are very good, but this is not one of them.

This is your one chance to top Mozart. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, I have heard of this, and know that you referenced this once before, which is why it might be fun to play with it. I very much doubt I would be the person to write the lyrics or the music. Maybe the jokey synopsis!

I hope there are some people out there with "wheels turning". What could be better than San Diego's own opera, about the imbroglio at the opera?

eastlaker: Problem: it would have to be contemporary opera. I have seen a lot of post-Schonberg, modern, 20th and 21st century operas and musically, never enjoyed a one of them. I did enjoy ones based on great literature, such as Streetcar Named Desire and Of Mice and Men, but didn't care that much for the music -- just the drama. I see SD Opera is doing a Jake Heggie work in the season after next. I hope it attracts the young audience, as the opera desires. But I wonder... Best, Don Bauder

It would have to be a very broad farce. So that even the music would need to be referential, with plays on music as there are plays on words. But, that is merely my opinion.

eastlaker: I think it may wind up to be a satire on Verdi's Macbeth. There is no attempt to kill a king -- just an opera company. Best, Don Bauder

Campbell has been married three times already. This will be his fourth marriage! He married an Australian girl first Back in the `60s.

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