San Diego Opera boss: I held two jobs, my wife had one

San Diego Opera boss: I held two jobs, my wife had one


norman lebrecht

March 21, 2014

Ian Campbell, who this week announced the closure of San Diego Opera, has been explaining the generosity of his compensation.

The local ABC affiliate found that Campbell earned around $508,000 in 2012, on the high side for the boss of a failing arts ensemble. “It is significant, there’s no question,” Campbell said. “But I do two jobs — I’m artistic director and general director.”

Campbell’s wife Ann, also on the payroll, earned $282,345 in 2012. Nice work.

san diego opera2


  • The dual job responsibilities are not uncommon. The dual salaries are.

    • sdReader says:

      Yes, and with their three jobs, the Campbells were taking 5% of the company’s budget ($790k of $15m).

      Now they’ve decided to retire and take 100% of the company with them.


  • Galen Johnson says:

    For this, I need some kind of spit-take* emoticon.

    *”A spit-take is a comic technique in which someone spits a beverage out of his or her mouth when he or she reacts to a statement.”

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    Anybody these days know their Gilbert & Sullivan? This is Pooh-Bah, to the letter. “When all…resigned…did I not unhesitiatingly accept all their posts at once?” Replies Pish-Tush: “And the salaries attached to them? You did.”

    Greed has been around a long time.

    • elliot rothenberg says:

      You got it. Cf. Michael Henson, belatedly departing poobah of Minnesota Orchestra, who gave himself a $200,000 bonus while he was locking out the orchestra musicians.

    • It’s probably only fully staffed when they’re building a show, and with 5 big operas a season (even if some are remounts), they’re building often. On a large scale, it makes economic sense to build in-house, and the company has more control.

    • Brian says:

      “Or, as Paymaster-General, I could so cook the accounts, that as Lord High Auditor I should never discover the fraud.” Only quoting here, nothing implied, naturally.

  • Jeffrey Levenson says:

    Why did they need their own scene shop for five productions a season?

    • Douglas Resenbeck says:

      I have worked in the scenic studio for 28 years. Not only do we build, and refurbish sets, for San Diego Opera. We also build, rent sets, props, drapes. Two other theaters in town and across the world. We have done this at a profit since 1968. Throughout most of the year we work on the next Season. We have been an asset to the community and to San Diego year after year.

  • Nice one, Michael!

  • Roberto says:

    … and what are the terms of his contract settlement without a formal declaration of bankruptcy? These productions were grossly overproduced, defiant of local cooperation with the symphony and other groups, fat with scheduling and excesses the budget could not support… and an arrogant management and board who paraded themselves at countless lavish parties and events as the rest of the city looked on. Do not blame the audience. Blame management.

    • Galen Johnson says:

      Is he retiring? Closing down without bankruptcy would presumably preserve his pension fund intact….

      • Roberto says:

        Just stand by folks; this is going to get VERY interesting. Watch for the exposure of salaries of the Director and his wife, benefits, travel and entertainment, bonuses, “rewards” such as a gift of over $200,000. from the Board for “years of exemplary service”, loans and other nice little under the table benefits. Like naming the “ex-wife” a ‘Co-Executive Director’ with a giant salary increase just before they vote to close. This smells, and it is going to be a messy few months ahead.

        Its an old shell game; bloviating artistic manager sees the time to get out before he has to work at raising funds as opposed to traveling and fussing over divas, and the director closes the company and walks away with a fortune. Nice work if you can get it.

        • Sarah says:

          Which is probably why things happened so quickly – no one wants the details to be examined (including the Board, which should have had much better oversight). Move along, folks; nothing to see here. Move on to the next music organization financial FUBAR.

      • rebeccarossa says:

        Rumor is he is paid through 2017 and will receive $750,000 as well as his former wife.

  • SadSDOMezzo says:

    If the poster Roberto’s statement about fat “scheduling” refers to SDO production scheduling, no, it was definitely not fat, and had been trimmed from adequate to extremely tight in recent years. Most of the costume shop, wigs and makeup, scenic shop, and stage crew are not full-time year-round at SDO. Chorus is also part-time seasonal and paid less than other Top 10 US opera companies, and every member of it re-auditioned every season, so there was no dead weight, artistically speaking.

    Excessive greed in management salaries, yes, a likely factor in this debacle. Labor costs among union stage hands and symphony players are also high, but necessarily so — and certainly not shamefully disproportionate when compared to other US companies, unlike, apparently, Ian and Ann Campbell’s salaries.

    SDO management is at fault for not innovating, not trying more cost-saving measures. Isn’t it possible to produce top-quality opera in a single-performance concert format? Or cut back to one production a season, with principal artists people are interested in seeing and hearing? Or try fresh repertoire and creative productions? And lower the darn ticket prices?

    But without early education in, and government support of, the performing arts, the audience will die out, no matter how well-run an opera company or how modest the salaries of its executives. We are a society entranced by mediocrity, where the less mental engagement that’s required to provide gratification, the better.

    • Amy says:

      There should have been a public appeal.

      That there wasn’t one…just smells of grim determination to drive over a cliff.

    • wma says:

      It should be noted that at least one of the unions involved has said that they would have been willing to negotiate lower wages, if necessary, but weren’t asked at all, and weren’t told that anything was wrong.

      Ian is also, apparently, saying his lawyers have told him not to comment on whether his contract will obligate the opera to pay his salary… until 2017! (on page 4 of )

  • G Ell says:

    And how different is this from the Wall St and City of London Directors that ran the world economy to the ground while bankrolling themselves into unimaginable wealth and successfully buying their way away from the criminal justice system? Not a drop. Party on.

  • Wing-chi Chan says:

    What kind of Board of Directors there. When I served at NEA panel, the moment I found such kind of jerk, I would tell my colleagues to tick it off from grant consideration.

  • Alexander Platt says:

    FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR to run a company that did four or five productions a year???!!

    • Galen Johnson says:

      Aw c’mon, that’s only $100000 per production.

      • Brian says:

        For comparison, Speight Jenkins’s 10 year contract that ended in 2003 was $125K a year and of that he donated 10-25K back to Seattle Opera. I’ve been unable to find figures more recently but even if he doubled that it would have been but half of the SDO salary. And Mrs. Jenkins wasn’t on the payroll.

  • Perhaps these events in San Diego are a reflection of a kind of artistic and social fraud that lies at the heart of the American opera world. A fraud in which the entire American opera community participates, from the journals, to the bloggers, to the music schools, to the opera companies, to the classical music media.

    + In San Diego, three salaries amounting to 750,000 dollars go to the director and his wife. And then the company ceases to exist overnight. I know of no other opera house in the world where the Artistic Director and General Director are different jobs each with its own salary. And I know of no other company where the Director’s wife is given a 270k job.

    + We see Houston calling itself a “Grand Opera” when its orchestra only has 49 members, when it does not even rank among the top 100 cities for performances per year, and has so few performances it can’t even have a dedicated opera house.

    + We see Washington calling itself our “National Opera” even though it ranks 182nd in the world for performances per year. It’s entire season has about the same number of performances major European houses often do in 2 or 3 weeks.

    + We see that the Met’s budget of 320 million is two and a half times higher than the Vienna State Opera’s, even though Vienna is the most active opera house in the world and has a season four months longer. The Met’s budget is 185 million dollars than the Vienna State Opera’s, enough money to run two additional major opera houses. We see how the wealthy treat themselves to the most expensive stars and stagings while letting the rest of the country go to hell.

    + We see the lavish productions and expensive stars in San Francisco and Chicago even though they are not among the top 50 cities for performances per year.

    + We see that Los Angeles has the 3rd largest metro GDP in the world while it ranks 180th for opera performances per year, and yet has a larger collective of theatrical and musical talent than almost any other city in the world.

    + We see Boston claiming to be such a cultured city when it ranks 252nd in the world for opera performances per year.

    + We see Dallas spending uncountable millions on a posh new opera house while the city remains 257th in the world for opera performances per year.

    + We see Seattle claiming to be a world center for opera when the city ranks 167th for opera performances per year.

    + We see schools like Indiana University excellently training hundreds of singers and presenting productions equal to A-level European houses, and all with the tacit assumption that those singers will have to go abroad to find work after they graduate.

    There is an inherent delusion in all of this – a kind of self-imposed fraud in which almost the entire American opera community participates.

    • G Ell says:

      I could not agree more with this assessment. Well stated.

    • The San Francisco Opera plans its season to be just long enough for the orchestra musicians to collect unemployment benefits. The NYC Ballet does the same thing. Government unemployment benefits for the orchestra musicians are actually a part of their funding strategy. This is yet another aspect of the fraudulent façade of opera in America.

      • Sarah says:

        Wow. Right up there with food stamps and other benefits for WalMart workers.

      • Mitt Clinton says:

        “The fraudulent façade of opera in America” It’s called public relations. Every marketable item is claimed to be so. I Wasn’t it Decca that marketed Pavarottie as “the King of High C’s”? “The Royal Family of Opera”? Yet I’m reasonably sure there wasn’t much regal lineage in the bloodlines, simply fine singers. Must have been part of the Fraudulent Facade of Opera In Decca Records.

        It must be a universal conspiracy 🙂 All of these claims of being good to get people to buy tickets.

        • Claims of status by opera companies that are not factually based is a form of delusion that leads to social and artistic fraud. Like the San Diego Opera claiming to be among the top ten companies in the USA while the city ranks 296th in the world for opera performances per year. Such half truths are fraud.

          It’s also artistic fraud because the quality claimed is not achieved. And its social fraud, because the limited function of the companies damages the country’s cultural life. And social fraud because it is denied that the underlying cause of our opera world’s problems is a funding system that is dysfunctional. Opera in America will not improve its situation until this sort of fraud ends.

          And of course, this fraud is perpetuated by posters using pseudonyms like “Mitt Clinton.”

          • sdReader says:

            Aren’t you taking these “fraud” angles a little too far?

            I can go along with the notion of a “fraudulent façade of opera in America” in the sense that the institutions behind the arts in the U.S. project an image of solidity when in fact they are flying by the seat of their non-profit pants from season to season and are really only as solid as their endowments.

            But it is a leap to say that a company that mounts opera without a year-round ensemble is automatically a kind of shell.

            And when San Diego Opera is listed as America’s 10th largest by budget, that is a fact (or not) regardless of the company’s global ranking.

            In your optimism, or really idealism, which I share along with I imagine most Slipped Disc readers, you must of course realize that Western art music has always been funded by entities having the option of ending that funding without obligation — always, that is, with the exception of the relatively recent (20th century) phenomenon of government-backed institutionalization, which has never been accepted in the U.S.

          • “with the exception of the relatively recent (20th century) phenomenon of government-backed institutionalization, which has never been accepted in the U.S.”

            I believe that Mr. Osborne’s (and I know he’ll correct me if I’m wrong — or, for that matter, even if I’m right) point is that it *should* be accepted.

            I also believe that most of us agree. The problem is…how do we *get* it to be accepted?

          • Linda says:

            I wish we could see more public funding for the arts! Not just opera. Artists in the US have a hard time making ends meet. I can only speak about opera, with any expertise, but the fewer opera companies we have the harder it is going to get. I think most Americans don’t realize the work that goes into putting on a production. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard artists talk about questions people have asked them that are almost absurd. One told me a lady asked her “How do you make your living?” and another one told me someone asked him if he had been in town very long. I get the impression the average audience participant thinks singers shows up the night before the performance and “do their thing”. They don’t realize that years of preparation go into that one performance. At the least, it takes 6 months to a year to learn a role. The endless voice lessons and coaching, which cost a lot and take a lot of time. If the artist is doing all that work and has to hold down a 9 to 5 job, it can be very draining. It looks so good on paper for an artist to be paid $3000, a performance but if you are only doing 2 or 3 performances, well, you are already in the hole before you even step out on the stage. I could go on, but you get the idea.

            I would love to see an overhaul of the arts in this country but at the rate we are losing companies, I am afraid I don’t see any hope for that. The arts are the first to suffer when we are hit by a recession and the last to recover. Sports doesn’t seem to suffer with this problem (and their players are paid FAR MORE than an artist) and film arts don’t either. However, Opera and Symphony immediately are hit. I wish there was a way to educate the public. To show them the beauty in music of all kinds. It starts in schools but the schools are cutting music classes because so much money has to be spent on technology and their upkeep. It is sad and it is scary.

          • The claim that the SDO is among the top ten companies in the USA, without mentioning the city ranks 296th in the world for opera performances per year, is a misleading half truth and thus fraudulent. If it were an innocent mistake or ignorance, that is one thing, but it is not. It is intentionally deceptive.

            Opera is just too expensive for it to be given wide-spread funding through private donations. At best, we will only have a few companies in large financial centers where the extremely wealthy are concentrated. The vast majority of Americans are left underserved. To ignore this basic funding problem is fraud designed to prevent progress toward the only genuine solution available: public arts funding – something that every other developed country in the world has long had.

            Even if the SDO is revived (and I think it will be) it will return to its same low status and constantly precarious state. So Jeffery is exactly right, how do we help people see that the only true solution for an expensive form like opera is public funding? And once that is done, how do we move beyond Jeremiah style crying in the wilderness toward a genuine, positive vision that will inspire people?

          • “296th in the world for opera performances per year”

            Oh. Are numbers of performance important to you, William? We had no idea.

    • Brian says:

      Nothing like the incredible fraud and waste in European opera houses, especially in Italy, where administration is political spoils.

      • The Vienna State Opera’s budget is about one third the Met’s, and for a season four months longer. And Vienna has better quality. Doesn’t sound like fraud and waste to me.

        We note you provide no substantiation for your claims about European houses. I see no European houses making claims of status far beyond what their actual work confirms, neglecting such large spectrums of society, so completely catering to wealthy donors, training singers with the assumption they will have to work abroad, exhibiting clear nepotism, double dipping salaries, or using unemployment benefits to support their orchestras. Such behavior would be politically untenable for Europe’s publically owned and operated houses.

        You are talking about around 35 countries and hundreds of houses. Give us some documentation for your claims.

        • Janey says:

          Better quality in Vienna than NY? Sometimes, probably. Always? Absolutely not. The shrunken rehearsal schedules and mix of top talent with not-so-top talent mars some productions. It would be accurate to say that both houses do some things better than the other. The Met this season has had a series of extraordinary productions. I believe it has been one of its most successful seasons in many years.

          In addition, the Vienna Opera House also has ballet running concurrently with opera, which means, according to your definition in the thread regarding Houston, it is not a dedicated opera house.

          • Unaccustomed as I am to coming to Mr. Osborne’s defense….

            The defining fact is whether or not the company has priority. Vienna books ballet at times when the opera does not need the hall. In Houston, the ballet and the opera are both equal, primary tenants, with neither having priority.

          • What is sure is that the Met spends 185 million dollars more than the VSSO and for a season 4 months shorter. And yet the Met and VSSO have comparable quality. 185 million dollars could fund two additional major companies. To deny this, or overlook it, is fraudulent.

            Ulm Germany has a population of 120,000 – about the same size as Mesquite, Texas. (I’m not making up that town’s name.) And yet Ulm outranks Houston by 75 positions for performances per year. Many other European cities the same size as Ulm far outrank Houston. It’s not the inclusion of ballet that is the problem in Houston, but that the city has so few performances per year that it compares to only the most parochial cities. To deny or overlook this is fraud.

        • Linda says:

          Having worked in Italy for a long time in various Opera houses, I can substantiate that the sovraintendente is a politically appointed position. Many times the person appointed has little to no idea about Opera, outside of what they have seen. They are, at least, businessmen and know something about running a company and manage money. However, Italy is having its problems too, as I understand it. I feel, however, that a lot of money was wasted with over opulent productions, using way too expensive materials.

          I think the reason the Vienna State Opera company can run more cheaply than the MET, is that they have a more fixed ensemble. The company soloists are on a salary and not paid per performance. The MET USED to have a core ensemble, all salaried, and all lived in the area. Now they have gone to having no core ensemble and all the artists are paid per performance. It is too bad the the US never adopted this practice even in the smaller houses.

          I am very sad about the San Diego situation – but I agree with the general opinion that Mr Campbell’s paycheck was exorbitant and that of his wife’s position was – well – let’s say it reeks nepotism a bit much.

          I am sad for all those people who will be out of jobs. Singers, instrumentalists, coaches, costumers, office staff, tech people and on and on and on. It is frightening. People in the arts are taking a lot of hits.

    • Mitt Clinton says:

      Mr. Osborne clearly doesn’t understand the difference between theaters that, first: do not take government funding; second, perform no operas in revivals, therefore are only doing new productions every season. 6-7 performances of a theater doing 5 new productions is not radically different than those of many larger European theaters, which cannot sustain many more new productions than that, certainly not in more than 7-8 productions in it’s first run (when they return later in the season, they are already regarded as “revivals” in rehearsal terms, frequently with changes in cast, rehearsed with different conductors and revived by an assistant). So, try to be a bit clearer in your understanding in the fundamental difference in the structure. It is thrue that compared to a stagione theater like Milan, it is not of the same scale, but I don’t believe any of the mentioned theaters attempt to do that. As to Washington, it has undergone a substantial reduction in size under it’s last leader, going down from a long period of 15 performances of 3 operas and 9 performances of 5, a decent number. It wasn’t always named the “National”, that was a vanity of Mr. Domingo. Don’t blame the company.

      Try to grasp the fact that it is all privately funded before going on an anti-American screed, which may make you feel good, but is irrelevant to anything but representing an emotionalism that distorts the basic question here: an Australian-born, English-begun career GD who has decided to close a solvent American company with apparent goal of keeping his contract running with full salary until 2017, for his ex-wife as well (not Rachel Gettler, of course, I doubt she’s getting a cut, although anthing is possible here), while shutting down a considerable source of employment for much of the profession. To describe this as self-serving, if true, is an understatement. Criminal might be more likely. Perhaps he doesn’t realize it.

      • Ironically, your post contains the usual nonsensical rationalizations that lie at the heart of the fraud. The difference between theaters that take government funding and those that don’t is clear. Those that don’t can only do a tiny fraction of the work. That’s why the USA only has 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year. And its why the USA ranks 39th for opera performances per capita – far behind *every* European country except impoverished Portugal. And yet Americans not only ignore, but suppress this fact, which is fraud.

        The seasons of American companies are so ridiculously short because we are the only developed country in the world without effective systems of publically funding the arts. This fact is suppressed and distorted. That is fraud.

        Most American companies don’t do revivals for the simple reason that they can’t afford to. Their seasons are too paltry – fraudulently short in comparison to the status they claim.

        The difference is indeed radical, because the number of performances, and thus availability, is greatly reduced. Casts rotate in active houses to protect singers voices. The only reason that doesn’t happen in the States is because they don’t even have enough performances to need it. Poof, and the production is gone. And as in San Diego, poof, and the whole company is gone! This kind of neglect while claiming such grand status is fraudulent.

        Washington has the 11th largest metro GDP in the world. The WNO’s average of about 15 performances per year (and now less) is simply ridiculous by international standards.

        Once again, look at the rankings for a few other capital cities, all listed on the website of Operabase:

        Vienna 1

        Berlin 2

        Paris 3

        Moscow 4

        Prague 6

        London 7

        Budapest 9

        Stockholm 14

        Sydney 16

        Madrid 17

        Even Athens in impoverished Greece comes in at 28th.

        Then comes Washington at 182nd. Given the status the company claims, that’s fraud.

        The facts are staring us in the face, and yet we deny them. That’s fraud. Your post is a good illustration of how that fraud is propagated.

      • Janey says:

        It is not that he does not understand. It is that his level of snobbery and elitism will not allow him to believe anything other than Europe is better than America, or that government hand-outs are better than private funding.

        • Anonymus says:

          Isn’t the snobbery and elitism actually with you, someone who finds no fault with snobbish elitist private financing of the high arts?

          Government “hand outs”? What has that to do with funding arts in a civilized society by a government of the people? Well, in the department of the arts the US never really was a civilized country. Only a rich country. Money rich, not artistically rich. Buying itself an art scene for the enjoyment of the money rich with very few artistic institutions per capita, topped up by European artists visiting and enjoying the paychecks.

          • Greg Hlatky says:

            Any time that San Diego (or any other city, town, hamlet or crossroads) wants to set up a full-time opera company or symphony orchestra funded at European levels, it is free to do so. But even a when an impeccably progressive city like San Francisco, with a board of supervisors Left-wing enough to meet with even your approval, won’t do so and isn’t even considering the matter, what does this say about the appetite for such a venture?

            In any case, San Diego is facing a $2 billion shortfall in its pension contributions, so good luck finding any spare cash for subsidizing opera. About 20% of San Jose’s budget is going to pension costs ( The parasites are eating the host.

          • Anonymus says:

            No idea what this issue has to do with your preconceived most simplistic mental imprints of American left-and-right sclerosis. Adequate public funding of the arts is a question of culture – or lack of it – not of political orientations.

            The US is a generally economically powerful country, but not a very cultured one. The lack of public funding for the arts is just one symptom of this phenomenon.

            High arts ALWAYS needed financial from the hegemony. Now if the hegemon is the upper 1%, and these progressively fall out of touch with the arts due their own compromised upbringing in a society that lacks public consensus about their importance – a downward spiral – then you get what we are getting now.

            A society with an before unseen accumulated wealth, but also an relatively uncultured society in general, a travesty if you want. This is what history will remember the US for. Power. Greed. It’s contributions to civilization are not equivalent to its wealth.

          • Linda says:

            Extremely well said and something I’ve been trying to articulate for a long time. Thank you!

  • Nicholas Hutchinson says:

    I, too, am distressed by the closure of yet another American opera company. I think it’s important to understand a couple of things in the midst of the general frustration and bitterness. First the local ABC affiliate “found” that compensation information by looking at the organization’s form 990. Not complicated investigative reporting, but information that is available for free to anyone with a computer and internet connection. I agree that the level of compensation is outrageous, but perhaps it’s time that people look at the financial statements of these companies BEFORE they run into trouble. Nonprofits, after all, are owned by the American public, and run by boards of directors on our behalf. Second, my initial reaction to the fact that both Ian and Ann Campbell receive high salaries was to be outraged at the apparent nepotism in SDO’s hiring practices, but a quick internet search again reveals that they both were hired by the company individually before they were married.

  • Galen Johnson says:

    To put things in context, $15 million is about the annual gross of an average supermarket.

  • Michael Hitchenson says:

    Andrew Davis and his wife hold/held two huge positions at Chicago Lyric Opera.

    • Like San Francisco, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago Lyric also plans its season to be just long enough for the orchestra musicians to collect unemployment benefits. (See my post above.) And yet I wonder what huge salaries Davis and his wife collected.

    • Big Poppa says:

      Yes. And her great legacy is that under her administration, that program produced a lot of choristers for the met…. not a great track record.

  • Roger Kaza says:

    Mr Osborne, re Houston: “and has so few performances it can’t even have a dedicated opera house.”

    Excuse me? The Wortham Center is one of the great opera houses in the country…state of the art. Yes, they hold ballet performances there as well, but it was built for opera and is used for all of the HGO’s performances.

    • It is fraudulent to claim to be a Grand Opera House, when Houston does not even rank among the top 100 cities for opera performances per year.

      The Houston–The Woodlands-Sugar Land Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) in 2005 was $308.7 billion, —slightly larger than Austria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Austria has 14 full time professional symphony orchestras and about 8 or 9 full time opera houses. Any European city the size of Houston would have at least two full time opera houses, not one house that can’t even make the top 100. That’s fraud.

      By 2012, the GMP of Houston has risen to $449 billion, the fourth-largest of any metropolitan area in the United States. Only 26 nations other than the United States have a GDP exceeding Houston’s GAP. And yet Houston can’t make the top 100 cities for opera performances per year. Its “Grand Opera” is a fraud.

      • Let’s suffer no illusions about why this fraud exists. A system of funding the arts by donations from the wealthy doesn’t work. The wealthy service themselves for a few lavish performances and neglect the rest of society. This funding problem is what has led to the artistic and social fraud of opera in America.

      • “Houston can’t make the top 100 cities for opera performances per year”

        Benghazi! Benghazi!!

    • No, the Brown was built for opera *and* ballet and is not a “dedicated opera house”, either in its design or its scheduling.

      The planners went to great expense to minimize the need for artistic compromise on the part of either company. The hall was designed, from its inception to be the home of Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera.

      • The problem is not the inclusion of ballet. Most larger European houses have ballet troupes as part of the opera company. The problem is that Houston has so few performances per year that it compares to only the most parochial cities. For the large majority of the year, the HGO’s hall is empty or used for other purposes than opera, in complete contrast to how a genuinely major company functions. To deny or overlook this is fraud.

        • “For the large majority of the year, the HGO’s hall is empty or used for other purposes than opera”

          The fact that there’s not a public performance on a given day does not mean that the hall is “empty”. It takes time to load in, set up, focus, and rehearse a production.

          …And yes, there are other performing art forms than opera, and sometimes they get to use the space.

  • Minx Hermes says:

    So glad to see this thread here. The lauding of Ian Campbell around this situation is disgraceful. Yes he ran a good company for some years but it was all about him – there are plenty who found him arrogant and insufferably rude. And it seems like he is doing what many autocrats do in the situation where they need to retire or reinvent – take down the organization with them rather than see it go on without them. Where is the younger manager he should have been mentoring? And how unbelievable that a board would vote to close an existing company without involving the community of San Diego in the discussion. The management and board are myopic, unimaginative, arrogant and clearly not opera lovers; they should go- all of them and let’s hope someone of vision and ability can take this opportunity to rescue the company.

  • Janey says:

    Is there any discussion of saving the company, given the clear issues with Campbell and his wife?

  • Mitt Clinton says:

    Osborne is a sad case of an expat “academic” who shouts “give me your sources”. Counting production numbers

    does nothing to show the quality of a performance in a repertoire house versus a stagione system. Have you ever seen a revival in Mannheim? Dear God.

    Anyone can count numbers. Artistic judgement seems to be beyound your mindless hatred. Yet you will take your “artistic” tour of colleges in the Southwest. Please be sure and let them know what frauds they all are when you get there.

    Can one possibly get back to the point? Campbell and his potential destruction of the company, not Osborne’s sad, “look at me, look at me and how I hate America!!!!” stance as an intellectual pose?

    • Brian says:

      Not to mention the inconvenient truth that those same European companies could not function without American and American-trained artists who for years have been praised for their preparedness, capabilities and abilities compared with sometimes unreliable and ill-prepared European counterparts.

      • Yes, many of the best and most conscientious American musicians go to Europe as economic refugees. That’s an example of why minimal seasons in America are a problem.

        • Greg Hlatky says:

          Yes, and many of the best entrepreneurs and scientists come to the United States as economic refugees. That’s an example of why Europe’s tax and labor policies are a problem.

        • Linda says:

          This has long been a complaint of American artists. We don’t WANT to go to Europe and work – it is not necessarily a good investment. There are good points about it – experience, for example, and the chance to hone your art – but you don’t make a lot of money AND, although you pay into their retirement pension fund you don’t get to take that home with you. And you get no credit for having paid into Social Security here. You have to employ someone to calculate what you need to pay into SS each year so you have something to retire on when you come home. In Europe, when you retire, you receive 80% of your last wage. They are far ahead of the US in retirement pay.

          Here’s what makes most American-Artists-gone European mad, is that artists from “over there” come to US without restriction. AGMA puts basically no restrictions on who comes into the US to sing, where as in every other country, you have to be able to show some kind of relationship to the country in order to work there. In the US the only restriction is that you have to join the Union and keep your dues current. Period. This practice is taking jobs and experience away from young artists trying to get started in the US. For the most part, the foreigners are really not that much, if any, better than the American trained artist.

          The managements, I guess, seem to think American audiences want exotic European names on the stage.

          The audiences need more education to know that American singers are just as good, if not often better, than the imports. Made in American, if you will. That goes, as well, for foreign costume designer (there is a whole other topic) and conductors, and directors. We have it all HERE. Let’s hire them HERE!

    • Christy says:

      @Mitt Clinton (ha!)

      –Can one possibly get back to the point? Campbell and his potential destruction of the company, not Osborne’s sad, “look at me, look at me and how I hate America!!!!” stance as an intellectual pose?–

      Thank you. There is no denying that Mr. Osborne brings up some points that are worth discussing. His anti-American tone, however, undermines it all. And the focus, like a skipping, broken record, on numbers, with not even the smallest willingness to accept that there should be other measures, also makes reading the comments seem futile.

      I say to him as I do to others who wring their hands – stop complaining and explain what you think should be done in the current environment. Constant complaining does nothing but create a pall that in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Joyce Didonato and Thomas Hampson are promoting a petition, and I suspect, some other measures. They are focusing on what is special and good about opera. Why not discuss these efforts?

  • I fail to see why it can be considered fraudulent to have a markedly lower per capita number of opera performances in Houston than in Vienna. Clearly the supply meets the demand in both cities!

    • The opera’s budget for a city that size should be at least one hundred million to meet international norms. The HGO operates on one fifth that amount. The fraud is HGO’s claims of greatness when such fundamental and extremely serious problems with its short season and lack of funding are being ignored, under-reported, and under-discussed — and all to rationalize our weak funding system. This is political, social, and artistic fraud.

  • Lee Zee says:

    Why didn’t any of these issues, such as the inefficient set production, dual-salary, lack of succession plan, etc., come to light in the past? Why are these things just being examined now? It’s very easy to look at the situation in hindsight and point a finger. If there was mismanagement at the SDO, the time to critique it has passed.

    Still, Ian Campbell, plenty of us take on multiple roles at our jobs and we are not compensated extra (let alone DOUBLE!) for it. Some of us work three roles within the same job, plus additional roles in support of our spouses at their jobs. Again, this should have been questioned prior to the folding of the company. A shame it wasn’t called out until now.

  • Another element of the fraud is the claim that seasons can’t be expanded because there’s not enough interest. In reality, the companies don’t have enough resources to build publics with affordable tickets for decent seats, children’s operas, outreach programs, advertising, educational activities, and so on. Opera is a popular art form. It is fraud to claim there’s no public when we could build one if given adequate resources.

  • Janey says:

    From Joyce DiDonato’s FB:


    My wonderful opera fans ~ I am not sad about San Diego Opera. Granted, I do not know all the details, but rather than feel sadness, I am outraged. There is a petition circling and we are 3/4s of the way there. Could you (yes, YOU!) help us to seal the deal tonight? I only need 2500 of you to sign the petition … please, let’s make a strong, FIERCE noise that this is NOT the way to handle the challenges we face as an artistic family. There ARE solutions … PLEASE sign … I see this as a tipping point, so let’s try to have it tip in the right way. THANK YOU!

    Here is the link for the petition:

  • rebeccarossa says:

    I wish they could audit the whole company for the last 10 years and look for evidence of actual wrongdoing. The only reason someone wants to fold like this is because they are covering their tracks.

  • San Francisco Classical Voice has listed some other North American opera companies falling by the wayside in recent years:

    Opera Hamilton, Ontario (January 2014)

    Opera San Antonio (2012)

    Opera Boston (2011)

    Lyric Opera of San Diego (2011)

    Cleveland Opera (2010)

    Spokane Opera (2010)

    Connecticut Opera (Hartford, 2009)

    Baltimore Opera (2008)

    Opera Pacific (Orange County, 2008)

    See the whole article here:

  • I am late to this party but shouldn’t someone in the community appeal to the State’s Attorney General to open an investigation?

  • Paul Stephenson says:

    Hello. I am the lighting programmer for the SDO. While I appreciate everyone’s concern and opinions of how this opera company should be managed, I want to ask a few questions from all of you on this thread…what are you all doing about this sad situation? Do any of you work with the opera? Have you done any research on what’s going on? I’ve been working for the SDO for 10 years and I don’t know why this is happening. How is it that you all have so much information on what’s going on with the opera, that you all can stand on your soap box and call for the stoning of Mr. Cambell? Have any of you bothered to ask Ian why this is happening? Does it really matter that the European opera does this different than American opera? We don’t live in Europe! That’s why we don’t do things like in Europe. This thing we call the San Diego Opera, is bigger than Ian, myself and the rest of the people that contribute to it. It’s a family and we are in trouble. Instead of throwing stones, why don’t you help us?

    • Linda says:

      Mr Stephenson,

      Yes. I have spent 40 + years in Opera. And I know Mr Campbell. I also know that his wages are WAY out of line and nepotism does not hold water anywhere. I want SDO to survive. The world of Opera has taken too many hits

      in the last few years and to lose one with SDO’s size and reputation hits everyone. That he was holding 2 jobs in the same company doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. I know many opera houses all over the world where people are called upon to stand in two positions. They are compensated a little bit more, but by no means 100% more! If that is the case, I know an institution that owes me a butt load of back pay. I believe the outcry that you witness here is exactly a response to that. We all are wondering if he is doing this to be sure that there is enough money to pay him and his ex off to the end of their contracts. To hell with the rest of the “family”.

      Further, you seem outraged that we compare SDO to Europe. Considering how many Europeans Mr Campbell has brought in over 30 years, you might as well be in Europe. There are thousands of American singers who could have used the job. Mr Campbell preferred to exclude them in favor of questionably better Europeans (who have to be flown in from Europe – more drain on finances). I think there needs to be a close look into things and some people held accountable. The Arts cannot afford scandal. Our footing is too precarious and our funding as well. I believe all of us here, who have expressed an opinion on this mess, want SDO to survive. We are expressing our feelings of helplessness at not being able to do anything.

    • As for the Europeans, we can learn from people who have developed better systems for funding and administrating the arts.

  • John Polhamus says:

    It is indeed highly suspicious behaviour, but at the same time whatever it takes to get rid of Ian D. Campbell, who has done so little for the growth of the opera audience in San Diego for a seemingly unending thirty year stretch, is worth the doing. And why is this just being noticed at this late juncture? I think there is little doubt that his bleeding of the monies of the organization is highly unethical, but is it criminal? I’d like to think so, but I doubt it. I’d be all for an investigation, but ultimately what I want as a lover of opera and as a veteran performer from San Diego, is to rid our city of this parasitic, second-rate poser. Thanks for nothing, Ian. Get out.

  • Bob Shuttleworth says:

    A number of years ago I served at a Community theater for a short time, as Artistic/Managing director. Now I will grant you that this was a whole lot smaller organization than the San Diego Opera, but those six months (the interim between loosing one person and finding and securing a replacement) were crazy! Trying to run the day to day affairs of the organization during the day, and directing a play, and later a musical in the evening. writing grant proposals, securing rights to shows and negotiating royalties, and seeing to it that the floors in the lobby were buffed, and all the time trying to get donations and sell tickets to keep the theater going.

    I may not have had a Multi-million dollar organization to oversee, but in it’s own way running that community theater was no less daunting. I was not paid a double salary for my efforts, and the theater maintained the same level of performance it had enjoyed over it’s fifty plus year history.

    Perhaps what truly needs to happen, is to remind Ian Campbell that this is not, despite his 30 years as it’s leader, his opera. He is still only an employee. He should not have the power to go before a board and say ,”We can’t go on this way, so we’re going to quit.”

    There are alternatives that Campbell has refused to examine or implement, stating, essentially, that he wants to quit and shut down the opera. That in my humble opinion, is a formal resignation on his part, breaking his contract and excluding him from any further severance pay. If I quit a job, I don’t get four years at full pay, and neither should Campbell. If he can’t find a way to go on, then he should leave and let someone else take the reigns who can find a way.

    The SD Opera, over the years, has contributed enough to Campbell’s retirement fund, at times over a million a year. So let him go, with the good wishes of a city that he has tried to stab in the back. “Et tu, ian?”