The Met mourns its Prince of Darkness

The Met mourns its Prince of Darkness


norman lebrecht

July 20, 2021

Gil Wechsler, resident lighting designer at the Metropolitan Opera for 20 years, died on July 9, it was revealed today.

He died in a care home of dementia, aged 79. This is turning into a terrible week for opera.

Wechsler joined the Met in 1976. Two years later Allan Kozinn wrote in the Times:
An average Met performance makes use of most of the house’s 300 lights positioned in the ceiling, on the four lighting bridges that hang high above the stage, in the proscenium, and on the towers on either side of the stage. A crew of 32 operators, and sometimes more, is required to keep the lighting end of the production flowing smoothly, and as far as Mr. Wechsler is concerned, those technicians are not only performers, but are as important to the production as the opera stars they help to illuminate.

“The basic idea,” he says, “is that the performing arts are co‐operative enterprises. A single person’s contribution should not make or break a show, whether it’s legitimate theater, ballet or opera. That’s why I have found productions such as ‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’ and ‘PeIleas et Melisande’ so rewarding—because they are the product of interactions. One of the wonderful things about working in a company like this is that you develop a working relationship with the directors, the chorus, the orchestra and the stagehands. You get to know how they think and feel, their responsibilities and their needs. If a director tells me, ‘I’want this scene to look hard,’ I know what he means. And if I tell the operators that I want particular effect, it happens. I don’t have to tell them which levers to pull.”


UPDATE: Former Met manager Joe Volpe told the NY Times that Gil was known as the Prince of Darkness for his skill at illuminating scenes that the director wanted shaded.


  • E says:

    He was a genius. His lighting crested a living, breathing, world.

  • Mark says:

    I believe that is John Dexter with James Levine

    • Yes Addison says:

      ‘Tis. I believe that famous photo was taken in 1977 during rehearsals for Lulu. One of the best Dexter productions.

  • Dionne Adams says:

    Norman, kindly choose a less offensive photograph without the molester!