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Opera collects $277,000 in 3 days

During the first three days of its three-week race for survival, the San Diego Opera collected more than $277,000 in contributions, bolstered by a surge from relatively small donations, which the organization had previously tended to ignore.

The donations flowed in after the opera's interim president, Carol Lazier, announced Friday that unless the organization could raise $1 million by May 19, it would risk shutting down.

In the past, the opera's fundraising drive would often target high-flying donors who could contribute $1 million or more. But by Monday afternoon, 85 percent of the gifts had come in at $1,000 or less.

Lazier, who recently contributed $1 million of her own money to research ways of keeping the opera afloat, said she was thrilled by the amount of money that has come in and suggested it reflects the breadth of support the organization has in San Diego.

"It shows how we're all in this together," Lazier said.

Lazier said that feeling was also on display at a general meeting of the opera's members Monday — the first membership meeting since March 19, when the board of directors held a surprise vote to call for the opera's dissolution.

Then-president Karen Cohn, who spearheaded the vote with CEO Ian Campbell, has since angrily resigned from the board with several supporters, and Campbell and his ex-wife Ann Spira-Campbell have been placed on indefinite leave, after reports suggesting that the vote violated the opera's bylaws, as well as California law, by not informing the board membership of plans to shut down.

Roughly 200 of the opera's 850 members turned out Monday, nearly wholly in support of keeping the opera going.

"There was a lot of anger (about the previous decision to close)," Lazier said. "People felt very let down and needed to vent. But in the end it was very positive."

The members voted for a resolution that would freeze any sales of essential assets - which was originally slated to begin on April 13 and was later postponed to May 19 - and also enacted a resolution that would raise the number of members required at key board meetings from 10 to 25. In addition, they also voted for nonbinding resolutions calling for the board to oust the Campbells and withdraw May 19 as a deadline for determining the financial viability of the opera.

The membership meeting was followed by a closed-door meeting of a quorum of the 25 remaining board members, down from 59 when the controversy began in March.

The board listened to each of the opera's professional staffers outline how their departments were functioning and present suggestions for how the opera could survive through its 2015 and 2016 seasons. Lazier said it was the first time in memory that the staffers, and not Campbell, had made such presentations.

"It was a very united, very motivated board that really loves opera as an art form and wants to preserve it in San Diego," she said.

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