Fantastic Review of In Character!
Picture books get no respect, derided, often rightfully, as decorative objects unworthy of literary consideration. In the opera world, such contempt can be justifiable: frequently assembled for notable company anniversaries, such memory books often offer dry prose, static production tableaux and glam portraits of divas in celebrated roles. John F. Martin’s In Character defies such stereotypes. With its prose confined to the opening pages — Amy Tan’s spare foreword is elegant, Martin’s explanation of process is essential, the rest is noise — and captions smartly placed as a thumbnail index at the end, the result is a rare alchemy of the performing arts, the fine arts and the graphic arts.
Martin began his association with San Francisco Opera as a supernumerary and managed to set up a closest studio in the War Memorial Opera House just off the canteen. He coaxed performers from the wings to sit for a moment in full regalia and character, their emotions engaged. you can smell the sweat of jealousy on Dmitri Hvorstovsky’s chest as Count di Luna in Il Trovatore. You avert your eyes from Natalie Dessay’s Lucia, so upsetting is her frail glance of madness. Qian Yi, as Precious Auntie in The Bonesetter’s Daughter, floats as if to heaven.
But it’s not only stars that shine bright in In Character. Yes, we see boldface heroes, villains and ingenues, but we also see clergy and townspeople and servants and social outcasts and a “fantasia” of freaks. We see wordless gaiety and fortitude, reflections of sorrow and pride, a child bereft of soul, captured as if by Diane Arbus. We also see the masterful skills of today’s leading costume designers in impeccable detail: Constance Hoffman’s terrifying harlequins for Rigoletto, François Barbeau’s bawdy dancers for The Rake’s Progress, Laurent Pelly’s snooty aristocratic ladies forLa Fille du Régiment.
Read the rest of the review here!
Posted on April 29, 2015, in Classical & Opera and tagged Amadeus Press, amy tan, david gockley, In Character: Opera Portraiture, John F. Martin, matthew sigman, opera news. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.