San Diego Opera board president resigns at Thursday meeting

San Diego Opera patrons gather at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego before a performance of "Don Quixote."
San Diego Opera patrons gather at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego before a performance of “Don Quixote.”
(David Ng / Los Angeles Times)

The president of San Diego Opera’s board of directors resigned Thursday and walked out of an afternoon board meeting, deepening the uncertainty surrounding the troubled company.

A number of other board members also resigned Thursday, though it remained unclear how many of the nearly 60 members have officially stepped down.

Karen Cohn had served as the board president and has been acting as the public voice of the company during much of the tumult following its March announcement that it was closing.

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Ian Campbell remained the company’s general and artistic director as of Thursday evening. Campbell has been the target of much public criticism in recent weeks for his role in the decision to shutter the opera.

Campbell and other leaders have repeatedly stated that the opera can no longer survive because of weak ticket sales and donations.

The opera’s board has been sharply divided by the decision, with some believing that the March announcement was made in haste and in an inappropriate manner. The board voted 33 to 1 to close, but many members were not present at that meeting and the vote had not been announced as part of the meeting agenda.

Since then, dissident contingents of board members, performers and employees have launched efforts to prevent the opera from shutting down.

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Board member Carol Lazier has assumed the role of acting board president following Cohn’s departure. Lazier said this month that she is giving $1 million to the effort to save the opera and to redefine its mission.

The Thursday meeting was intended to hear proposals from a special committee of board members on alternatives for the opera’s survival. On Wednesday, Cohn sent a letter to employees reinforcing her position that the opera faced too many financial obstacles to continue.

The company’s last official performance took place on Sunday at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego.


The company’s April 29 deadline for closure remained in effect as of Thursday night.


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