San Diego Opera: A Pillar of Cultural Excellence

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Background and History

San Diego Opera has long been a respected member of the international opera community and a treasured cultural asset in the San Diego region. The journey began in 1950 with the founding of the San Diego Opera Guild, primarily to showcase San Francisco Opera productions locally. By 1965, the San Diego Opera Association was established as a producing company, celebrating its inauguration with a staging of La bohème at the newly opened San Diego Civic Theatre. Walter Herbert, the founding General Director until his death in 1975, crafted a fine balance of standard and new opera repertoires.

Era of Expansion and Renown

In 1976, under General Director Tito Capobianco, the company gained international fame, notably through an annual Verdi Festival and an expansion to six seasonal productions, attracting opera luminaries like Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, and Beverly Sills. Ian Campbell, succeeding Capobianco in 1983, broadened the company’s artistic scope by launching a concert program that brought major international stars to San Diego and initiated the North American Voices Project to include contemporary American operas in the company’s offerings.

Education and Outreach

San Diego Opera also runs extensive education and outreach programs, among the most comprehensive in North America. Each year, these programs introduce opera and the arts to over 100,000 young people in the San Diego area and northern Mexico.

Resilience and Revival

The 2014-2015 season marked the opera’s 50th anniversary, celebrated after overcoming a significant financial crisis. In early 2014, facing potential closure, the company rallied with a crowdfunding campaign that raised $2.2 million, including significant contributions from new donors. This resurgence, supported by the community and industry, led to the retention of the opera. William Mason, former General Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, briefly joined as Artistic Advisor, helping pave the way for new leadership.

Current Leadership and Vision

After a thorough selection process, the company appointed David Bennett, previously Executive Director of Gotham Chamber Opera in New York, as the new General Director. Under his guidance, San Diego Opera continues to present traditional grand-style operas while also exploring innovative works in unique local venues, aiming to cater to the diverse San Diego community with exciting, accessible, and relevant performances.

Contact Information

San Diego Opera
233 A St Suite 500
San Diego, CA 92101

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Esteban Villanueva