Michael Whitfield was standing on a pulpit Tuesday afternoon, a giant crucifix behind him. Where he pointed, light appeared. When he spoke, people obeyed.
For a moment I though I had my angle: Lighting designer of the San Diego Opera as God. Let there be spotlight.
But the more time I spent around Whitfield, the less it seemed like an apt metaphor. Because unlike God, Whitfield asks for feedback. And he’s not one to smite, at least not as far as I could tell from my brief interaction with him Tuesday, when I snuck in for a brief peek at how the lighting and tech setup is being assembled, four days before opening night. (I’ll check back with Whitfield tonight for more.)
The lights were already in position, so Whitfield’s task Tuesday was to get them properly oriented and focused. Jamie Hill, a light technician from Texas who came to California on a whim and ended up working for the opera, perched on a platform high above the stage while Whitfield issued commands.
“We don’t want too much on the face here,” Whitfield called up to her, and Hill softened the glow on the holy visage.
“Catch the end of the cross,” he told her next, and she illuminated the bottom.