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Opera gets month-end reprieve

As if to prove that nothing's ever final until the fat lady sings, the board of the San Diego Opera on Monday postponed its decision to start shutting down by two weeks, as a coalition of opera supporters try to patch together a way to keep the organization afloat.

Under the plan, the opera will not begin selling off its assets -- valued at $19.7 million -- until April 29, rather than follow its initial plan to start liquidating immediately after the last performance of "Don Quixote" on April 13.

In the meantime, a special committee of the board has been asked to conduct a thorough review of the opera's financial statements, employment agreements and contracts to determine the viability of continuing into the 2015 season, which would mark the opera's 50th anniversary.

"People are beginning to realize that there's too much at stake with the opera to simply walk away," said Carlos Cota, business manager for the stagehands union. "Now people are starting to understand the rippling effect of the opera being gone, which goes beyond the 400 jobs being lost and really has an impact on the San Diego economy."

Cota is part of a coalition of opera board members, staffers, union leaders, performers, vendors and supporters that has formed a self-dubbed White Knight Committee, which hopes to restructure the opera, install new leadership and -- in the words of a weekend press release -- "create a new opera company more suited to the San Diego and Baja California community."

The board's action slows the effect of its decision made at a special meeting on March 19 to begin winding down operations after the April 13 performance and close the opera's doors on June 30.
Critics have challenged the validity of that vote, charging that only 34 of the 55 board members were present at the meeting and that most of those who did attend were given no warning that they were about to vote on the opera's dissolution.

In the last regular meeting of the board, opera CEO Ian Campbell reportedly gave no indication of any dire financial trouble, but instead touted the work being done to prepare for the opera's 50th anniversary next year.

"The manner in which the issue and decision were raised and executed prevented us from giving our best to perform that solemn responsibility…," Los Angeles attorney David Kleinfeld, who voted against the initial call for a shutdown, said in a press statement.

Kleinfeld - who joined with seven other committee members to push for a full-scale financial review - said there were a number of unanswered questions about the finances as well as "many unexhausted opportunities to seek creative solutions from fresh voices and perspectives, bringing all stakeholders and the broader community together to save and nurture a San Diego treasure."

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