Björnson in 1988
Maria Elena Björnson|
16 February 1949
13 December 2002 (aged 53)|
Maria Elena Björnson (16 February 1949 – 13 December 2002) was a theatre designer. She was born in Paris to a Norwegian father and Romanian mother. She was the great-granddaughter of the Norwegian playwright Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1903.
Björnson was born in Paris on 16 February 1949. Her father Bjørn was a businessman from Norway; her mother, Mia Prodan, was from Romania. Both were from theatrical families. Björnson grew up in London; she studied at the Lycée Français, and then at the Byam Shaw School of Art and at the Central School of Art and Design.
She designed sets and costumes for theatre, ballet and opera. She worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and designed Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which won her the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design, and the Trevor Nunn production of Aspects of Love.
Björnson was course director for Theatre Design at the Central School of Art and Design. She died in London on 13 December 2002 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. She was 53.
In 2006, the refurbished Young Vic opened a new studio theatre named the "Maria" in honour of Björnson. The first performance there was Love and Money by Dennis Kelly, directed by Matthew Dunster and designed by Anna Fleischle.
In the 2011 25th Anniversary Concert of The Phantom of The Opera, the chandelier, considered Maria's greatest stage triumph, was named Maria in honour of her with the name inlaid on the inside of the $2M set piece.
- Anne Midgette (22 December 2002). Maria Bjornson, 53, Designer For Opera, Theater and Dance. The New York Times. Accessed September 2013.
- Kenneth Jones (16 December 2002). Maria Björnson, Designer Who Won Tonys for the Phantom's Lair, Dead at 53. Playbill. Accessed December 2015.
- David Jays (16 December 2002). Maria Bjornson: A leading set and costume designer, she brought a unique sense of romantic expressionism to theatre, opera and musicals. The Guardian. Accessed September 2013.
- Aleks Sierz (22 November 2006). Love and Money. The Stage Reviews. Archived 11 June 2011.
- "Obituary: Maria Bjørnson", The Times, 16 December 2002. (subscription required)