Producing opera these days is “like pirouetting on the edge of a razor,” San Diego Opera Artistic Director Ian Campbell tells the North County Times in a story published today.

Writer Charlene Baldridge illuminates some of the economics of producing opera in San Diego:

Even if every ticket to the upcoming “Turandot” is sold, San Diego Opera will still lose $1.2 million on the staging, because the cost of mounting the production is higher than the amount raised through ticket sales. The rest is made up through donations and grants.

That’s part of the opera’s $16 million budget this year for its four planned performances. It’s not just that it costs a lot to bring in international singing stars to play lead roles. Look at the sheer number of people involved:

Among those involved in the season are 30 principal singers, the San Diego Opera Chorus, dancers, supers (extras), the San Diego Symphony, conductors, stage directors, scenic and lighting designers, wig and make-up artists, costumers, stage managers, electricians, follow-spot operators, carpenters and production assistants. Also, “Turandot,” which is performed on David Hockney’s epic set, features acrobats.

“Solo artists are not the greatest expense,” said Campbell. “It is the labor intensity of opera itself. ‘Turandot’ requires more than 300 people to get it to the stage. That’s why some call it ‘grand opera.’ “

On another opera note, I’ll be sitting down Thursday afternoon with Nicolas Reveles, the opera’s director of education and outreach. He films a TV show for UCSD-TV, runs a podcast, takes the story of opera to local schools and is a composer himself. If you have anything you’d like to ask Reveles, leave a comment below or send an e-mail to:

I’m the arts editor for VOSD. Have something you think I should know about? Drop me a line directly at or 619.325.0531 and follow me on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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