In Character

In Character

Opera Portraiture

by John F. Martin

Foreword by Amy Tan | Preface by David Gockley


In Character: Opera Portraiture by John F. Martin (November 4, $34.99, Amadeus Press) memorably captures operatic performers away from the audience but fully inhabiting their roles.

For six years, Martin set up a portable studio in the basement of the San Francisco Opera and photographed the players – in costume and full makeup – right before or after they took the stage. The subjects range from nonsinging supernumeraries through chorus members and comprimarii to opera’s greatest stars, including Anna Netrebko, Natalie Dessay, Deborah Voigt, Juan Diego Flórez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Their roles run the gamut of opera personalities: heroes and heroines, villains and outcasts, royalty and common folk, Biblical figures and creatures of myth. Facing Martin’s camera, each artist projects the essence of his or her character, however great or small the part.

In Character begins with a foreword by renowned writer Amy Tan, whose oeuvre includes the libretto for the opera The Bonesetter’s Daughter and a preface by David Gockley, general director of the San Francisco Opera, followed by insightful essays on opera experts on the vital role of costumes and the transformation of singers into characters, and an interview with world-renowned soprano Danielle de Niese. The book is organized by the roles portrayed: Heroes and Heroines; Ingénues and Worldly Women; Nobility, Aristocracy, and High Society; Townspeople and Villagers; Artists, Clergy, and Other Professionals; Soldiers, Servants, and Slaves; and Gypsies and Outcasts. Other chapters include Biblical and Exotic Lands, Fantasia, and even a hilarious section of “outtakes.”

The portraits, often done in the style of the Old Masters, art works of art in themselves, even apart from any association with opera. A collection unlike any other, In Character will appeal to opera and theater buffs, costume and fashion aficionados, and anyone who appreciates fine art photography.

November 4, 2014
9” x 12”

284 pages


John F. Martin is a photographer with 25 years of experience and a passion for opera. His publications include a commemorative book on Amy Tan’s opera The Bonesetter’s Daughter, and his work has appeared in periodicals such as Visual Artbeat and blogs such as Elizabeth Avedon, F-Stop Magazine, and Lenscratch. His work is in the SFMOMA Artists Gallery and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. He lives in Graton, Calif.

In Character_Cover_9X12_with index.indd



Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on October 7, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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