How Closing San Diego Opera Makes Your Life Worse

What follows is the text of an e-mail. I have friends — curiously, a great many really good friends — whip smart people — who work in and are passionate about the world of opera. To butcher Austin Powers, opera ain’t my bag, baby, but I appreciate it as an artistic expression. My particular tastes never get in the way of making sure that others can tell a story and impact lives by doing so.

Anyhow, this is in response to the whole hub-bub that’s happening at San Diego Opera. You can read a primer in this article from the LA Times. Meanwhile, all outrage and expletives below are my own.

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*sigh* JESUS FREAKIN’ CHRIST
I will attempt brevity, but I probably will not succeed because this pushes all of my arts management buttons.

401px-Amalie_Materna_as_Brünhilde_1876_-_IL1

It’s not over, you know, until the fat lady sings. Here’s Amalie Materna as Brunhilde in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen nearly 140 years ago. People are still coming to hear this music. Should we preserve it?

Here’s the bottom line: this is 100% — ONE HUNDRED PERCENT — about the mis-, mal- and non-feasance of this Board. Period. End of. Do not pass “Go.” Accept and move on to the next task. Because….

This is NOT the general director’s organization. This is NOT the audience’s organization. This is NOT the employees’ organization. This is the BOARD’S organization. That’s reality. That’s the legal reality of the situation.

The BOARD let Ian Campbell fail — spectacularly fail — at his job. Why? Because they were lazy. Because they forgot what they were supposed to do. Because they forgot their charge. Because they forgot — or did not know — what their job was. At at the very essence, their job was to shitcan him a decade ago.

Why? Because no one — NO ONE — should be allowed to make a career out of one artistic organization. Why? Because the art gets flabby. OR the leadership gets flabby. OR the Board gets flabby. OR all of the above.

When an arts Board forgets that they are supposed to make ART happen instead of make MONEY happen, well, they’ve lost the plot already.

So, what happens now? If no one pulls their fat out of the fire? Lots of people who can ill afford it lose their jobs. San Diego loses one of California’s/America’s/the world’s cultural treasures. And an art form dies a little. And we’re all a little bit worse off because we’ve contracted the amount of space in our world that we are willing to allot to art. And, thus, we become less and less human. That’s the esoteric nth degree, but it makes it no less sad.

This, friends, is the sad intersection of art and commerce where, unless you are the deftest of traffic cops, commerce always runs roughshod over art.

And I find the greatest of ironies in [redacted – the signature file of the original sender]: Audiences Reimagined? Okay. Good luck with that. But, I will leave you with this tiny tip: that’s a false construct. Audiences are audiences. They do not change. If you want to reimagine something WORTHWHILE THAT CAN BENEFIT SOMEONE, reimagine MARKETING to the audience. And Boards.

This fuckin’ thing raised my blood pressure too high for 10pm on a Tuesday.

Cross-posted to markblackmon.net

Quote of the Day

A valuable truism from my friend and former colleague David Ebenbach.

THE ARTIST’S TORAH quote of the week (and happy Purim!): “People succeed by allowing themselves to enter the fear, to pass through it or to live with it. As artists, we have to open ourselves up to this experience. What frightens you? What do you desperately not want to deal with in your work? What wall of water stands in your way?”

(from the chapter “B’shallach: Fear”; each chapter is a week of the year, a week of exploration of the creative process. I’m planning to post a quote from each chapter, one per week, for as long as I can keep it up.)

You can find out more about The Artist’s Torah here:

The Artist’s Torah | David Ebenbach

David’s guide to the creative process, THE ARTIST’S TORAH, is an uplifting and down-to-earth guide to the creative process, wide open to longtime artists and first-time dabblers, to people of every