Even avid Santa Fe Opera goers may not have known Randy Lutz’s name, but they saw his handiwork at nearly every performance of every opera for the past four decades.
Need a couple of hundred Champagne flutes for the drinking song in La Traviata? Or an 18th-century globe, a dead turkey, a Biedermeier chair, muskets that can actually be fired onstage (no bullets, though)? Lutz took care of it all.
Lutz died Tuesday in Santa Fe at 62. The company’s properties director since 1993, as well as working in many other roles, Lutz was lead set decorator for the 1988 film Miles from Home. And in 2018, he received a national award from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology for his professional mentoring.
“Randy was many things to those who worked with him,” said Paul Horpedahl, the opera’s longtime director of production and facilities. “A leader, mentor, craftsman, artist and counselor. Directors and designers appreciated and respected his input on the designs and passion for creating the best possible production. Through his work with the opera’s apprentice program for technicians, there are hundreds of professionals around the country who credit their careers to Randy.”
Lutz was a Pennsylvania native whose interest in theater began as a high school student in Mount Carmel, a small town in the state’s central coal region. He attended Bloomsburg State College (now Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania). He started as a pre-med major, but he changed his focus to technical theater. He spent the summer of 1979 as a scenic carpenter with the Santa Fe Opera, graduated from college in 1980 and moved to Santa Fe in 1982.
Tracy Armagost, the opera’s production and recruiting coordinator, often traveled with Lutz professionally for extended periods.
“We were always roommates, so we were with each other around the clock,” she recalled, “and we’d laugh from sunup to sundown and beyond. You’d work all day with him, and you’d still want to spend time with him when the work ended. I can’t say that about very many people.”
The range of Lutz’s interests was a source of astonishment for Andrea Shrewsbury Bishofberger, production administrator at the opera.
“It was incredible. Organizing multihousehold garage sales, gardening, cooking, steer wrestling with the New Mexico Gay Rodeo, frequenting haunted houses; you name it, he did it,” she said. “He never missed a chance to go on a roller coaster, always in the front seat of the front car, and he would map out a plan of attack on a state fair based on what food was being sold where.”
There was still another side to Randy Lutz. “He was deeply committed to his faith,” Horpedahl said, “and was ordained in November 2006, as an Episcopal priest. His work with St. Bede’s Episcopal Church has included performing baptisms, weddings, funerals and spiritual counseling for the opera community and beyond.”
Lutz is survived by his mother, Margaret Haas.