Opera is a combination of all art forms – theatre, dance, orchestra, vocal and visual arts. Leland Sandler has been an avid opera fan for many years. He first became interested in opera when his close friend, Jay Merritt, a strong opera fan and Board Member of the San Diego Opera, introduced him to the art. It was at the Vienna State Opera house (Wiener Staatsoper) in Austria where Leland enjoyed his first two operas, Carmen and The Barber of Seville. Since then, Leland has developed a great appreciation for opera and has attended various operas all around the world. So far, he has attended operas in London, Zurich, San Francisco, and San Diego.
Of the numerous operas Leland Sandler has attended, his favorites include:
- The Barber of Seville
- Don Giovanni
- The Marriage of Figaro
While his first opera experience took place in Vienna, Leland Sandler holds a particular interest in the San Diego Opera. The San Diego Opera is a regional opera that provides operatic works to the community which touch upon themes that are universal to the human experience. But the San Diego Opera is more than what is normally considered a “regional opera”. The San Diego Opera has global impact, being recognized as a prominent opera company internationally.
Producing new and rarely performed works, the San Diego Opera has a long history of world premieres as well as west coast premieres, presenting important works to the community in the region. The San Diego Opera has also discovered many emerging artists who have gone on to international fame. Notable artists who have performed with the San Diego Opera include Ferruccio Furlanetto, Denyce Graves, Richard Bonynge, Carol Vaness, Richard Leech, James Westman, Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, and many more.
Additionally, the local economic and educational engagement of the San Diego Opera has made a great impact within the local community. The opera engages tens of thousands of San Diegans through education and engagement programs and employs over 600 people throughout the year.
However, last year, the opera suffered from a number of severe setbacks that nearly led to its demise. In March of 2014, diminishing audiences and increasing costs brought the board of directors to vote to cease operations entirely. This announcement led to great disappointment in the community as well as with the actors, singers, and other production members of the San Diego Opera. Because of this reaction, the board of directors decided to extend the shutdown deadline while they worked on a strategy to reorganize the organization.
As a professional executive advisor, Leland Sandler played a critical role in helping the leadership team and the staff understand what was most important to them as well as identify what was most needed for success. He created the opportunity for building a new and emerging culture within the San Diego Opera. Additionally through his advising process, Leland Sandler helped every staff member become better versions of themselves, leading to their measurable improvement as employees of the San Diego Opera.
After a meeting of the board of directors on May 16, 2014, the decision to close down the Opera was overturned and the organization has seen great success ever since.