“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” – Louis L’amour
It’s been almost three years since I lived in San Diego, but this week it was almost as if I were transported back to the beach, back to the Civic Theater, right back into my memories of San Diego Opera by the outpouring of emotions following the announcement that SDO would be no more after this season. I know the sadness I feel is likely not at the level of those who have been part of SDO for many, many years or those of my friends who performed in the Verdi Requiem this past Thursday… But my heart is with you all.
I couldn’t help but reminisce about my first production with SDO. Madame Butterfly, sung by Patricia Racette. How that was my first up-close experience with opera. How I was at a point in my life when I was truly questioning what I was doing with my life (working and not singing). How I desperately wanted to pursue music again. How I wanted to start voice lessons again. How I was cast as a super, and during a rehearsal found the courage to strike up a conversation with a chorister who referred me to a teacher.
That teacher, Dianna, would then introduce me Enrique, who hugely impacted my life and saw me off to graduate school. It was while studying with Enrique that I was hired for the SDO chorus for Turandot with Lise Lindstrom. That was my first experience singing in an opera. I still remember how nervous I was walking across the plaza from the parking garage to the rehearsal space. How excited I was to sign in on the chorister sign-in sheet. How unsure I was as to where I was supposed to sit and then the relief that there a seating chart. How magical it was to be part of that group, making that music together. How I loved every moment, didn’t mind the long rehearsals, couldn’t wait to do it again. How I was actually sick during one of the performance weekends and was on some crazy cough suppressant that made me a bit loopy. How my dressing room partner read my Tarot cards, and how I was so antsy about getting into grad school and wondering what life held in store for me.
I never had a concrete plan for moving back to San Diego, but I always hoped that I would have the chance to sing as part of the SDO family again. It is surreal that this hazy dream/assumption might not ever have a real shot at happening. Over the past few days, I’ve observed my friends and colleagues react to this shocking announcement and work through their emotions. There were expressions of deep sadness, a sense of loss, grief, bewilderment, denial, and yes, there was also disbelief and anger… and then I witnessed a turning point when beyond the anger was a seed of defiance, an unwillingness to just sit back and let this happen.
Times are changing. Every opera singer, every classical musician, everyone involved in the performing arts knows that keeping an opera company afloat is a challenge and that most companies are struggling. I’m watching my friends mourn the end of SDO while I try to reconcile myself to the idea of a San Diego withouth San Diego Opera. But I also see the ideas being thrown around, the passion this has stirred, the fight that my friends still have left in them.
To anyway who is reading this, to all my friends in San Diego, to all those who at one point thought about going to San Diego to be involved in opera – don’t give up this city, on music, on opera. When one door closes another opens. I have the feeling that something amazing will rise from these ashes.