Culture Spotlight: San Diego Opera
Posted on October 10, 2016
San Diego Opera carries forward its renewal with the opening of the 2016 season in October, presenting world-class productions and music education programs. The company, which starts with Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola) on October 22, has a new spring in its step following its near-death experience at the end of the 2014 season, when it was on the verge of closing its doors. A life saving injection of $2.2 million was raised from supporters in 36 states, which kept the Opera alive. It has also ushered in new creativity under the guidance of current General Director, David Bennett, who recently transplanted from the Gotham Chamber Opera in New York City.
A mainstay of the San Diego cultural scene, the Opera was initially founded in 1950 to present San Francisco Opera productions locally. The San Diego Opera Association was incorporated in 1965 to produce its own performances, first staging La bohème under the guidance of Walter Herbert. Subsequent directors took over the company, including Tito Capobianco in 1976 and Ian Campbell in 1983. They worked with superstars like Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, and Beverly Sills. Under Campbell, the Opera began a regular program to bring international stars to San Diego. He also launched the North American Voices Project, bringing contemporary American operas to the company’s repertoire.
Performances are currently held in the San Diego Civic Theatre and the Balboa Theatre. They include both pre-opera and post-opera Q&A sessions and educational lectures. Cocktails and food available on the concourse have become a staple part of each event. For the seasoned aficionado, the Opera also provides a wealth of incentives including backstage tours, community conversations, listening tours, and Opera Exposed, which brings operatic ensembles out to surrounding neighborhoods. They even offer a podcast series.
Opera does have a reputation of being a bit daunting to youngsters. In response, San Diego Opera has developed programs that bring the joy of this historic art form to local schools. The Student Night at the Opera program invites students to the final dress rehearsal of main stage productions. There, they have a chance to hear performers in costume sing accompanied by the San Diego Symphony, and sometimes, even meet the cast and crew. The My Voice in the Arts program awards subscription ticket packages to the local student community. Students in grades 6 through 12 can participate in the Words and Music program with weekly instruction in opera composition.
Throughout the years, the Opera has received praise for its dedication to both the craft and the community — a commitment that will continue in the upcoming season. In addition to Cinderella, the company will present Falstaff, La traviata, Soldier Songs, and The Tragedy of Carmen, among other programs. 619.232.7636, sdopera.org Ryan Thomas