San Diego Opera Guild was founded in 1950 to present San Francisco Opera productions in the San Diego community. San Diego Opera Association was incorporated in 1965 as a producing company and presented its first staging of La bohème in the newly opened San Diego Civic Theatre. From 1965 to his death in 1975, founding General Director Walter Herbert produced a balance of standard repertoire and new works.
Beginning in 1976, General Director Tito Capobianco brought the Company international renown with an annual Verdi Festival and expanded the season to six productions, featuring renowned superstars such as Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti and Beverly Sills.
Ian Campbell succeeded Capobianco in 1983. Campbell expanded the artistic vision by introducing a concert program to bring major international stars to San Diego and launched the North American Voices Project which contemporary American operas to the Company’s repertoire.
San Diego Opera’s acclaimed productions regularly brought internationally renowned artists to perform in San Diego throughout the Company’s season. The Company’s education program is one of the most extensive and diverse opera education and outreach programs in North America, bringing music and arts to 100,000 school children annually in San Diego County and Northern Mexico.
San Diego Opera announced its 2014-2015 season and 50th Anniversary on May 19, 2014, after nearly two months of careful deliberations and analysis since the Company announced it was going to close at the end of the 2014 season. During this time, Campbell and the opera parted ways, the Company launched a crowd funding campaign that resulted in an unprecedented $2.2 million in public donations, of which 48% were first time donors from 6 countries and 36 States. The outpouring of public support, the unified vision expressed by the company’s management, staff, partners and contractors, and the expert advice of Opera America and the many General Directors of U.S. opera companies who weighed in with encouragement, logistical assistance and statements of solidarity, led the Board of Directors, headed by Carol Lazier, to confidently rescind the original vote to close. The Company appointed former Lyric Opera of Chicago General Director, William Mason, as Artistic Advisor in May and he served in that capacity until December 2014 at which time the company began a search for permanent leadership to lead the Company as it repositions itself to better serve the diverse San Diego community. After an exhaustive search from a pool of well qualified candidates, the Board decided overwhelmingly to select David Bennett as the Company’s new General Director. Mr. Bennett is the former Executive Director of Gotham Chamber Opera, a New York City based opera company which has made its mark in the international arts community by presenting fully staged productions, from the Baroque era to the present, in unexpected and intimate venues. With Mr. Bennett at the helm, San Diego Opera will continue to produce grand-style opera from the popular repertoire at the Civic Theatre while diversifying its offering with unexpected works in venues unique to the San Diego region.
San Diego Opera is committed to creating a future for opera and the vocal arts by presenting exciting and exceptional performances to diverse audiences through the transformative power of live performance, innovative programming, accessibility and community relevance.