San Diego had big plans for classical music this summer

The Shell has an element of the Sydney Opera House.

Summer classical music in San Diego has followed a glorious pattern for as long as most of us can remember. The Mainly Mozart Festival welcomes the summer in June. The San Diego Symphony Summer Bayside Nights take over starting in July, and the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest balances out the pop-heavy Bayside concerts with almost daily classical concerts in August.

This summer will be different.

In late March Mainly Mozart postponed the June festival. There is a lingering hope to have a reduced festival in August, but that is dependent on California reaching Level Four of the re-opening plan in time.

The San Diego Symphony has officially postponed the inaugural season of the Shell until summer 2021. If you are unfamiliar with the Shell, it is the first permanent waterfront concert venue on the West Coast, and it was scheduled to open for concertizing this July. It is located at the Embarcadero, next to the downtown convention center.

The Shell has the potential to be a revenue-generating machine for the San Diego Symphony similar to the LA Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl or The Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood. There is an element of the Sydney Opera House at play because of the waterfront location and architectural design.

Postponing the initial summer season is a setback for San Diego. “Not being able to fulfill the dreams of so many people and celebrate the inaugural season at the Shell as planned this summer is devastating,” said Martha Gilmer, San Diego Symphony CEO.

The La Jolla Music Society has suspended ticket sales for Summerfest. The organization is in the process of gathering ideas from ticket holders, artists, and the community. I’d say Summerfest is in jeopardy even if the state reaches Level Four. My guess is that audiences won’t be comfortable gathering even in the smaller confines of the Conrad.

The San Diego Symphony and La Jolla Music Society are going to have to bear the burden of additional fixed costs represented by their new venues. The Conrad, La Jolla Music Society’s new venue, is just over a year old and Summerfest is their signature event.

Classical music has faced worse circumstances but not often.

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