Remembering Maria Björnson

Maria Björnson was a brilliant theatre, ballet, and opera designer who died suddenly in 2002 at the age of 53. She studied theatre design at the Central School of Art and was later a course director for Theatre Design at the Central School of Art and Design.

Maria worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet, Glyndebourne Opera, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Sydney Opera, La Scala, in the West End, on Broadway, and at the Almeida Theatre. She designed the costumes and set for Anthony Dowell’s 1994 production of Sleeping Beauty for the Royal Ballet.

Her best-known – and still much admired – design was for Phantom of the Opera, for which she received two Tony Awards, two Outer Critics’ Circle Awards, and two Drama Critics’ Awards, all for Best Costume and Set.

In 1979 and 1988, Maria was part of the British Theatre Design Team awarded The Golden Troika Prazké Quadriennale. In 1983 she was awarded the Silver Medal for the Janacek Competition Prazké Quadriennale. In 1990 she was awarded the Observer’s Experts’ Expert, The Designers’ Designer, in recognition of her contribution to theatre design. In 1999 she was awarded the 19th Franco Abbiato Prize.

We are delighted that the Maria Björnson Memorial Fund, a charity set up in memory of Maria, has made a grant of £30,000 towards the Royal Academy of Dance’s new global headquarters in London.