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Remembering Paul Brown (1960–2017)

The Welsh designer, who worked regularly with both Graham Vick and Jonathan Kent at the Royal Opera House and elsewhere, has died suddenly.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

14 November 2017 at 5.03pm | 11 Comments

The Royal Opera is very sad to hear of the sudden death of opera and theatre designer Paul Brown at his home in Wales on 13 November 2017. Born in Glamorgan and trained under Margaret Harris, Paul Brown made his Royal Opera debut in 1991 creating the spectacular designs – inspired both by Oriental theatre and by Baroque opera seria – for Mitridate, re di Ponto, revived by The Royal Opera in the 2016/17 Season.

He returned to The Royal Opera to collaborate with Graham Vick on King Arthur, A Midsummer Marriage and the lively, hilarious and vividly-coloured production of Falstaff with which the Royal Opera House re-opened in 1999. He also designed Elijah Moshinsky’s Royal Opera production of I masnadieri, and in 2006 was the designer for Jonathan Kent’s production of Tosca, with its stunning naturalistic sets and costumes. His final production for The Royal Opera was Manon Lescaut, with Kent (2014, revived in 2016).

Paul Brown also had a long association with Glyndebourne Festival, designing Pelléas et Mélisande and Lulu for Graham Vick and, for Jonathan Kent, The Turn of the Screw, The Fairy Queen, Don Giovanni and Hippolyte and Aricie. He also worked prolifically with both Vick and Kent for opera companies in Europe and further afield, with some notable credits including (for Vick) Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Royal Danish Theatre), Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Moses und Aron (Metropolitan Opera, New York), Idomeneo (Göteborg Opera), Le Roi Arthus (Paris Opéra), War and Peace (Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg), Tristan und Isolde (Deutsche Oper Berlin) and Guillaume Tell (Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro), and (for Kent), The Flying Dutchman (English National Opera), Le nozze di Figaro and The Tempest (Santa Fe Opera) and Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten (Mariinsky Theatre).

In theatre, Brown designed many productions for Jonathan Kent, at the Almeida Theatre, the National Theatre and in the West End. His ballet credits included Giselle for La Scala, Milan, and his musical theatre credits included Phantom of the Opera (Cameron Mackintosh Tour), Man of La Mancha (New York) and Half a Sixpence and Marguerite (West End). He also designed the films Up at the Villa and Angels and Insects. He was winner of the 2013 Royal Designer for Industry Award, an honorary member of the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the recipient of an honorary diploma at the Prague Quadrennial international theatre design exhibition.

The opening night of The Royal Opera's performance of Tosca will be dedicated to the memory of Paul Brown.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

14 November 2017 at 5.03pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Paul Brown, Mitridate re di Ponto, obituary, Paul Brown, Tosca

This article has 11 comments

  1. Steven Gregory responded on 14 November 2017 at 7:24pm Reply

    I knew Paul had been ill with cancer but I am shocked to hear that he has passed away.

  2. Rae smith responded on 15 November 2017 at 1:11pm Reply

    I love his work and admired his creative energy. He was a lovely man. I got to spend a little time with him when we were working together in the same season in Glyndebourne. I loved his company and he was very generous with help or solving problems with another designer like myself. I will miss him , we will miss him.
    Rae Smith.

  3. Sebastian Petit responded on 16 November 2017 at 6:28pm Reply

    So sad. He will be much missed.

  4. Catherine Buyse responded on 17 November 2017 at 1:56pm Reply

    I had the honor and the great pleasure to be in his side to supervise the costume department in Florence of the film " Up at the villa " .... I will miss him lot ... ciao Paolo Marrone ....

  5. Catherine Buyse responded on 17 November 2017 at 2:24pm Reply

    I had the honor and the great pleasure to be on his side to supervise the costume department in Florence of the film " Up at the villa " .... I will miss him a lot ... ciao Paolo Marrone ....

  6. Liam Steel responded on 19 November 2017 at 9:38am Reply

    I never got the opportunity to work with him, but, for me, he was always one of the most exciting and inspiring designers we had. A very sad loss to the industry and the world.

  7. Charlotte Leadbeater responded on 20 November 2017 at 1:57pm Reply

    I am devastated to hear of Paul's death from cancer.
    Paul was the nicest, most talented student I ever taught at Christ College. He loved the theatre and designed the props and masks for 'Gallileo' We would visit Covent Garden on the 6th form school trips and he was captivated with that.He got a starred 'A' of course at A level. We got on well, and I often thought of him during his career, especially his Purcell's King Arthur, which he invited me to at Covent Garden (Marvellous!!) I cannot believe he is dead.
    A sad sad loss.

    • David RIMMER responded on 3 December 2017 at 11:15am

      I went to Christ College 4 years before him but I don't remember him or you and I'm more embarrassed to say I don't know his name from Opera, which I love. He was obviously hugely talented. Very sad. It was Gareth Jones who put on the best productions when I was there.

  8. Ken Fleary responded on 21 November 2017 at 8:59pm Reply

    I am truly saddened to hear of Paul Browns passing. Myself and my team at Scott Fleary Ltd cut our teeth working on some challenging and yet very interesting projects over the years with the Almedia theatre and then at the ROH among others. We will always remember Paul with great fondness and the projects we all had fun working on. The UK has lost a very talented and creative designer.
    He certainly will be missed.
    RIP Paul.

  9. Eileen Connor responded on 25 November 2017 at 5:34pm Reply

    I am stunned and saddened to hear of Paul's death. I had the great privilege to work with him (painting and aging costumes) at the Metropolitan Opera and on his first Broadway show "Man of La Mancha." He stands out as one of the most creative and inspired designers I have ever worked with. And, more importantly, a kind, amusing and generous man.

  10. Rhys Griffiths responded on 3 December 2017 at 1:21am Reply

    Truly saddened to find the world has lost someone as great as Paul. I never realised how “high profile” he was until after I’d worked with him, which was a huge benefit in it’s self. His talent was clear for all to see but what made him such a great person was his skill to make you be the best you could be. I’m not an educated man but good with my hands which is probably why we hit it off plus he teased me about not knowing his dogs name (it took research, which ended in laughter).

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