Designer Maria Björnson (1949–2002) made her Royal Opera debut in 1980, designing costumes for Les Contes d’Hoffmann, directed by John Schlesinger. She went on to design costumes for Der Rosenkavalier, directed by Schlesinger, and Kát’a Kabanová, directed by Trevor Nunn, and sets and costumes for Donnerstag aus Licht, directed by Michael Bogdanov, and Don Giovanni, directed by Francesca Zambello, for The Royal Opera, and for The Royal Ballet sets and costumes for Anthony Dowell’s production of The Sleeping Beauty.
Björnson was born in Paris to a Norwegian father and Rumanian mother and was raised in England. She studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Central School of Art and Design. She began her career at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, where she regularly collaborated with Sue Blane. Opera engagements included Macbeth (La Scala, Milan), Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Maggio Musicale, Florence, and Paris Opéra), Le nozze di Figaro (Geneva), Così fan tutte (Glyndebourne Festival), Die Walküre and Carmen (English National Opera), Jenufa (Houston), Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Zauberflöte, The Bartered Bride and Hansel and Gretel (Scottish Opera) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Sydney Opera House). Theatre credits included The Phantom of the Opera (West End), The Tempest and Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company) and The Cherry Orchard (National Theatre).
Björnson’s many awards included the Prague Biennale Silver Medal for Welsh National Opera’s Janáček cycle and two Tony Awards, two Outer Critics’ Circle Awards and two Drama Critics’ Awards for The Phantom of the Opera.
News and features
With gigantic sets and rail-upon-rail of luxurious costumes, John Schlesinger’s sumptuous production is one of the toughest to stage in the repertory.