San Diego Opera to shut down after 50 years due to financial woes

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The San Diego Opera, which once attracted Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti and Beverly Sills to sing in Southern California, has announced that "an insurmountable financial hurdle" would force it to shut down after this season ends in April.

"After nearly 50 years as a San Diego cultural cornerstone providing world-class performances, we saw we faced an insurmountable financial hurdle going forward," Ian Campbell, general and artistic director, said in a statement.

Mr. Campbell said the opera's board had voted Wednesday to wind down the company "with dignity and grace, making every effort to fulfill our financial obligations" rather than "inevitably entering bankruptcy as have several other opera companies."

The chairwoman of the company's board, Karen S. Cohn, said in the statement that the decision to close was heart-rending but unavoidable.

"After 28 consecutive years of balanced budgets, it was clear that we could not continue," she said. "In spite of excellent financial management, the opera faced increasingly higher ticket-sale and fundraising hurdles."

Opera companies cannot survive on ticket revenues alone; in the United States they rely on philanthropy, and in Europe they often receive government subsidies. In recent years San Diego had struggled to come up with new sources of donations, and it pushed ticket prices up, with some orchestra seats going for as much as $280 on Saturday nights.

The company plans to give four performances of Massenet's "Don Quixote" in April before shutting down.

San Diego Opera is not alone in facing money woes. Last fall, the New York City Opera announced it was ending its 70-year run because of its own financial struggles.

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