Born-again San Diego Opera names NY CEO

Born-again San Diego Opera names NY CEO


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2015

The miraculously resurrected San Diego Opera has named David Bennett as its chief executive. Bennett, 50, has made his name at Gotham Chamber Opera, a Manhattan outift that does offbeat shows in non-trad venues. Good call.


Bennett will earn $200,000 – less than half the salary of his predecessor, Ian Campbell.


  • william osborne says:

    We see why opera in the USA is so inefficient. San Diego used to do about 15 performances per year. As it rebuilds, I think the number will be closer to ten. Bennett will thus make $20,000 per performance. Major houses do about 300 performances per year. At the San Diego rate, the CEO would be paid $6 million per year.

    Ten performances for a city of 1.35 million people. In San Diego, by comparison, the DoD employs more than 35,000 sailors, soldiers, Department of Defense civilian employees and contractors. About 5 percent of all civilian jobs in the county are military-related, and 15,000 businesses in San Diego County rely on Department of Defense contracts. Most of the money DoD money spends in the city is political pork. Just one percent of the defense spending in San Diego could turn the SD Opera into a major, international house.

    • shenyeh says:

      I hope you are not irrational enough to suggest that because SDO only gives 15 performances a season, rather than 300, its CEO only deserves to receive 5 percent of his reported salary. Some thoughtfulness, please.

    • Nick Si says:

      I hope you are rational enough to realize that the logic behind your math equation is completely idiotic. Just because SDO only has 15 performances a season, rather than 300, shouldn’t the company try, within its means, to attract a high quality CEO with this reported salary? Are you really suggesting that his salary should be shrank by 90 percent to match the per-show pay of the heads of these so callef 300-perforamce major houses? Less arrogance and more thoughtfulness, please.

    • william osborne says:

      The thought is obvious. American companies with small seasons that attempt to have high standards have a much higher cost per performance than major houses with large seasons. Similar production costs for far fewer performances. This isn’t a complex idea, but forgive me if I don’t even attempt to discuss it on SD. Avoiding the kind of discussion that often takes place here isn’t arrogance, it’s just self-respect…

      • william osborne says:

        One might add that $20,000 per performance (or $15,000 if you raise the SDO’s number of yearly performances to a magnificent 15) would be far too high, unless they expect Bennett to expand the company, as they no doubt do. The problem, as is obvious in every American city, including San Francisco and Chicago, is that administration is not the problem.

        It is our funding system. Until that changes, no administrator will be able to make companies like the SDO, the San Francisco Opera, or the Chicago Lyric what it should be. To say nothing of Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, and on and on. Wake up Americans and at least admit the truth about the ridiculous status of opera in America. Nothing will be solved until we first face reality.

        • Nick Si says:

          How interesting that you used the two words “face reality” in your last sentence. What is the reality? Look around, and it is what it is. SDO should be applauded for trying hard to attract best talent it could afford to keep opera available to the community, not ridiculed with snobbishness and discontent. Doers work hard and make the best what is given, while Talkers only whine.

  • Judy says:

    This is EXCELLENT! San Diego is very lucky.