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San Diego Opera postpones closure by two weeks

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San Diego Opera has postponed its closure by two weeks in order to give its board of directors time to seek out new funding from the city and other donors. The postponement comes in the wake of a public backlash against the company for its abrupt announcement last month that it would shut down. 

The decision to postpone the closure until April 29 was made during a Monday board meeting, according to Karen Cohn, president of the board. She said San Diego Opera would need to find a major donation on the order of Joan Kroc's $10-million bequest in order to continue operating as it has in the past.

"It's hard. It's going to be tough," she said in a phone interview. "I'm not going to say it's impossible." 

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In 2003, Kroc, who was the widow of McDonald's president Ray Kroc, left $10 million to San Diego Opera. The money has been crucial in keeping the company in business, but the Kroc fund is now virtually depleted, said Cohn.

In March, San Diego Opera leaders suprised the arts world by announcing that the company would shut down in April following its production of "Don Quixote." Leaders cited the company's dire financial condition, including declining box-office receipts and the lack of a major donation that could sustain operations.

Since then, the union representing choral singers with the company has filed an unfair labor practice charge in an effort to stall the closure.

The charge filed by the American Guild of Musical Artists states that the company has "refused to provide the union with information relating to its fiscal condition and the business practices relating to the announced closing." 

In addition, an online petition to save the company has so far gathered nearly 20,000 signatures. 

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"I'm amazed at all this furor," said Cohn. "What we really need is for people to buy a ticket. Buy two tickets." She said the upcoming production of "Don Quixote" is only 74% sold. 

Much of the public criticism has been directed at Ian Campbell, the opera's general and artistic director. Campbell wasn't available to comment on advice of his attorneys, according to Cohn. 

The San Diego Opera board has been divided by the announcement to close. Many members were not able to attend the March 18 meeting where it was decided to shut down the company. On Sunday, some of those members held a separate meeting to discuss ways to save the company.

"Don Quixote," which is still the company's final production, is scheduled to run April 5-13.

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