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Culture Report: Bennett’s Plans for the San Diego Opera Revival

Things are looking up for the San Diego Opera. After some major drama, including near closure, the ousting of two leaders and a life preserver thrown by major donors, it seems the waters are calming.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last month the company’s wrapped up its 50th season in the black [1]. That’s exciting news for the Opera, which had been borrowing money from a $10 million reserve fund left to them in 2003 by the late Joan Kroc. This year is the first time it hasn’t needed to pull from the reserve since receiving it.

I talked with David Bennett [2], the Opera’s new general director, about what he hopes to do with the company’s good standing. Bennett said he would love to “build a much more robust endowment” that would allow the company to take bigger artistic risks and keep them thriving down the road.

Expect to see some major experimentation under Bennett’s leadership. During his tenure as executive director of the Gotham Chamber Opera in New York City, Bennett has been known to bring performance to unexpected places. But it’s not just about throwing a performance anywhere solely to create a buzz. From the Union-Tribune [3]:

“It’s all about illuminating the work,” Bennett tells the Union-Tribune. “We asked ourselves, ‘If we put this work somewhere besides a traditional theater, will it really bring something to it?’

“That’s was always our starting point: How can putting an opera in nontraditional spaces really elevate the experience?”

Bennett said he also plans to collaborate more with local organizations. While he’s looking to experiment, the new chief isn’t throwing caution to the wind, which I imagine will ease longtime patrons’ concerns about seeing “The Marriage of Figaro” reimagined as a hip-hopera under a freeway overpass.

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego [4]’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

Coney in San Diego, Inmate Expression and More Visual Art Stuff

The San Diego Museum of Art brought decades of Coney Island to Balboa Park [5]. (KPBS)

Oceanside Museum of Art currently has a special exhibition of artwork created by inmates at Donovan State Prison [6], all displayed in a gallery space no bigger than the average jail cell. (KPBS)

A local veteran found his second calling [7] as a comic artist after suffering a brain injury. (NBC 7 San Diego)

Get into a sensual, powerful staring match you can never win [8] at the San Diego Museum of Art’s Lalla Essaydi exhibition. (Union-Tribune)

Comic artist Patrick Yurick does a lot of cool stuff [9]. Just don’t ask him about his tattoo (which you definitely want to ask him about now, don’t you?). (CityBeat)

The New York Foundation for the Arts wants to chat with [10] all you artists and arts supporters on Twitter.

Apartment complexes are the new art galleries [11]. (CityBeat)

This weekend’s Pride celebration will be hands-on beyond just the dance floor at Rich’s. Check out the Art of Pride exhibition, an interactive experience. [12] (CityBeat)

The newly opened San Diego Comic Art Gallery kicks things off with an awesome exhibition of work by Kevin Eastman [13], creator of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” (Union-Tribune)

Classical Karaoke, Who Run the World and More Music and Performance Goods

Are you super into karaoke? Do you also love classical music? Happen to have $15? Then follow me, please [14]. (Reader)

• Who run the world [15] in Moxie Theatre’s new musical [16]? That’d be girls. (Union-Tribune)

• The songwriters behind the tunes in “Dogfight, [17]” a new musical based on the 1991 indie film starring River Phoenix, talk about the production, the feeling of being hurt by a girl and creating music for the Kennedy era. (Union-Tribune)

Mini-Comic-Con, Aging Aspirations and More Culture Bits

Comic book artist Ben Templesmith, who created the art for the awesome vampire comic “30 Days of Night,” was so over the insanity of Comic-Con he created his own mini-convention in a Gaslamp bar [18]. (LA Weekly)

Did you hear about the man who walked more than 600 miles to Comic-Con in a Stormtrooper costume [19] to honor his late wife? Sweet stuff. There’s a Proclaimers [20] joke in here somewhere but I’m choosing not make it. (NY Daily News)

A Civil War veteran – yes, Civil War – was given a proper burial and funeral in Miramar [21]. (Columbus Dispatch)

The Union-Tribune profiled a 104-year-old Mexican woman [22] who’s a former dancer, loves margaritas and still gets down on occasion. I think I just saw my future.

An Oceanside theater just made its way into the record books. [23] (Union-Tribune)