After 16 years as a beloved team member in the LAO Costume Shop, John Bishop left behind quite a legacy. His talent and creativity was evident in every seam and stitch, and his work was integral to the success of countless productions.
John's absence is felt throughout our entire organization. Since his passing last month, his closest colleagues in the Costume Shop came together to share some of their favorite memories of him and his incredible work.
Jeannique Prospere, Interim Costume Director
"One of the most endearing things about John Bishop was his sense of humor. When I worked with him on a production, I so enjoyed the creative process bouncing ideas back and forth about fabrics types and shape that would best achieve the design. He would then, create a prototype and often, as he was a great, standard man’s size, he would end up being the first to model it to trouble shoot fit and movement issues. I think he really enjoyed those 'self-fittings,' no matter how funny he looked. And, they provided no end of joy for us, seeing him don some of the peculiar animal characters or exaggerated muscle costumes that he was often tasked with creating. His engineering background gave him a unique approach to his beloved art. I will miss our little chats about theater, travel or the latest Doctor Who we had seen. It is difficult to imagine the Costume shop without him. He has made such large artistic contribution to the Opera as a whole and a bigger mark on the lives of each of his colleagues."
Jenny green, former costume director
"For John, costume creation was his life, no challenge too big to be overcome, no design so daunting he could not create it, whether from rough pencil sketches done on napkins, or elaborate painted fully rendered costume designs John would create the most amazing realization of the designer’s vision often going far beyond the actual designer’s first thoughts. A large personality with a soft heart John was always generous with his knowledge. Designers loved working with him, and costume crew learned so much from him as he passionately pushed them to develop their skills. John embraced the tried and true methods but always searched for more and was never afraid to veer from the path into new territory developing methods unheard of. He always took on the unusual, the unimaginable, and the seemingly impossible and had a deep knowledge of the human body and all its failings creating costumes to always minimize any imperfections. Creating grand illusions for the stage was his forte, his mission, his passion and his great success. The costume world has lost a great creator but his memory lives on in all those he taught and all the amazing costumes he created."
Hansel, Gretel and the forest creatures in "Hansel and Gretel" (2019) (Cory Weaver)
Tina Sheridan, Assistant Cutter
"'John makes amazing costumes.' Those were the words echoed by my colleagues during my first fitting with the LA Opera, and it was my introduction to John Bishop, the costume department's Senior Cutter/Draper. At the time, I shrugged off the comment as an exaggeration, but after working with John for three years, I can confidently say that 'amazing' might be the most accurate description of his work. John's costumes were not only exquisite, but they were functional and durable as well. He held himself, and those around him, to the highest possible standard, expecting our work to be perfect and for any work failing to meet this requirement to be redone. Needless to say, he had an incredible work ethic and an equally impressive knowledge about the field. He was always my go-to for period-based pattern drafting book recommendations and, even during our little chats, we'd eventually digress from the status and activities of his kitties and family to costuming techniques and other industry-related news. Because his work space was right next to the stairs, he was the first person I would always see when I got upstairs, and I will miss seeing his face. John was a talented, passionate costumer who made amazing costumes. And I am a better costumer for having worked with him."
John's work on Wotan in Die Walküre (2009) (Monika Rittershaus).
Gregory White, Costume Department Manager
"Though a consummate artist and artisan, perhaps the best memories I have of John are of his playfulness and sense of humor. He had the uncanny ability to make the impossible possible and have fun throughout the process. I’m lucky to have had the chance to work with him for an incredible 16 years and will miss him dearly."
The Dragon in "Grendel" (2006) (Robert Millard)
Misty Ayres, Costume Design Manager
"My favorite memory of John Bishop is getting a new costume design rendering and collaborating with him on how to build it. He was so creative and inventive on how to structure the costume piece that I always looked forward to brainstorming with him. We would come up with some crazy ideas and have endless laughs on how to create the costume. After, a while John would come up with something that I couldn't even imagine and he go back to his table and create this amazing mock up and I would be so impressed. I will miss his genius ideals, his way to think outside the box to create a masterpiece costume and most of all I will miss our chats."
John Bishop's work on The Three Stones' costumes in Eurydice (2020) (Cory Weaver).
Meredith Miller, Master Craftsperson
John was endlessly excited about challenging projects. I recall many a design meeting in which we would get the news that we had some extremely complicated things to build for the next show. The rest of us would be thinking 'Oh my God, how are we going to do this?' and then we would look over at John and see his eyes light up with childish delight and he'd say, 'I can't wait to get started on figuring out how to make this happen!' He was tirelessly fascinated by the challenges that others shied away from. He truly enjoyed his work, and never wanted to take the easy way out. It really set the tone for the entire shop, reminding us to take delight in our work and to always be trying something new and making discoveries.
John getting dressed in a costume from The Magic Flute.
Ademir Serrano, Cutter/Draper
“I first met John when I started working with the LA. Opera. I started working in his team as a second hand back in 2014. I remember been so nervous and intimidated by him, it took me a while to understand the pressure and stress he always worked under and only he could achieve. His ingenuity, talent and love for his craft was incomparable. He taught me so much not only as a draper, but life in general. I'm honored to have worked for him and with him. He was not only a co-worker, but a good friend to me. He has left HUGE shoes to fill at the shop, but most importantly, an example of care and dedication to follow. I will always miss you JB."
Mime and Siegfried in "Siegfried" (2009) (Monika Rittershaus)
Christopher Koelsch, President and ceo
"He was beloved by directors and designers for animating their vision with his uncanny ability to bring fantastical and unusual character costumes to life. Some of his most brilliant works include the Ring, the animals in Hansel and Gretel, the period men's costumes in Don Carlo, The Dragon costume in Grendel and most recently 'The Three Stones' costumes in Eurydice. John has been a cornerstone of the heart, creativity and skill of our shop. He will be dearly missed.'
Our deepest condolences go out to his family, and especially his husband, John Musselman, who is also a member of our Costume Shop.
Thank you John. You will be sorely missed.