Theatre Designers – Maria Bjornson

Maria Bjornson – Born Paris 1949 – Died December 2002

Maria.s most famous design was her elegant and ingenious design for Phantom of the Opera – arguably the most famous music theatre production in contemporary theatre entertainment.

In 1950 Bjornson moved to the UK with her mother and attended a French school. She later attended the Central School of Art and Design where she studied under Ralph Koltai. Her early theatre career was spent at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow (a theatre company dedicated to being accessible and affordable for the Glasgow community Link – Citizens Theatre entry at Wikipedia)

It was whilst designing for the Royal Shakespeare Company that Bjornson.s work was noticed by Cameron Mackintosh, who invited her to design Phantom of The Opera.


Phantom of course toured worldwide and won Bjornson a Tony award for her costume and set design. This was perhaps because her design and approach to this famous story was almost “non-commercial” – the design feels huge, impressive and incredibly operatic, even epic at times. Yet when you observe Bjornson’s staging methods, selection of structure and of object, you realise that she suggests much more than she ever literally describes to you. And costume it seems plays a greater role than scenic elements, all of which is usually the signature of a non-commercial production.

Acclaimed Designs

  • The Marriage of Figaro (Grand Opera of Geneva, 1989)
  • Aspects of Love (West End 1989, Broadway 1990)
  • Measure for Measure (RSC 1991)


Bjornson won a Gold Medal at the Prague Quadrenniale in 1975


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