Maria Björnson's designs

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  operafantomet on Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:35 pm

Similar list from Copenhagen (a bit different, since they got most sets and costumes from Sweden and Belgium):

Phantom make up (at theatre): Josefin Kulle, Silke Kosa, Sybille Ridder, Rune Soire
Phantom mask and makeup: Thomas Foldberg
Language coach (no kidding): Niels Weyde
Wigs: Anni Kristiansen, Big Wig Company
Shoes: Harr, Gamba
Shopper (no kidding!): Ceris Donavan
Head of costume workshop: Bente Bilde

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  TheFinnishPhantom on Mon Jun 04, 2012 3:36 pm

Saw this picture today:



I had no idea that the bedhead was from Versailles.

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  operafantomet on Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:56 pm

TheFinnishPhantom wrote:Saw this picture today:



I had no idea that the bedhead was from Versailles.
Ooooh!!!! Me likely! Great find! The eagle always made me think it was inspired by something from Austria or Germany. But maybe Marie Antoinette put her stamp on the room? Do you know which room it's from?

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  TheFinnishPhantom on Mon Jun 04, 2012 7:14 pm

I'm sure it's from the Queens's chamber, here's another pic:





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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  charleygirl on Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:31 am

Wonderful find!

According to the Versailles website, the furniture and fireplace in the Queen's Grand Apartment were supplied new for Marie Antoinette. The bed is not original as most of the furnishings were sold or destroyed during the Revolution, but was resculpted using old documents as reference.

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  justin-from-barbados on Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:29 pm

Here is another image that no doubt inspired Maria's design for Hannibal, I believe this pic is from a set from the acrual Paris Opera also.

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  operafantomet on Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:26 am

justin-from-barbados wrote:Here is another image that no doubt inspired Maria's design for Hannibal, I believe this pic is from a set from the acrual Paris Opera also.
The statues looks familiar, sans the bull head! But the actual backdrop, with the desert and tents, is based on a Palais Garnier production from Massenet's "Le Roi de Lahore". It's one of those Buquet was found hanged in between in Leroux's novel, probably why Bjørnson looked into Massenet in the first place.


(A close-up from the book Degas and the Dance)

In the mean time, the poster that inspired the Hannibal one in the auction scene can be yours. Massenet's completely forgotten opera "Le Mage" from 1891 had a rather inspired poster to promote it, and is today considered a rarity of opera memorabilia. It can be yours for $1295.
http://www.rare-posters.com/597.html


Last edited by operafantomet on Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:38 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  StrangerThanUDreamt on Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:34 am

^ WANT That poster something bad!

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  Scorp on Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:50 pm

Stumbled across this article from 1994, which appeared in The Boston Globe. Thought some of you might enjoy.

THE PHANTOM'S GRAND DESIGN BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE PEOIPLE WHO INVENTED THE MUSICAL'S SPECIAL 'LOOK'

Patti Hartigan, Globe Staff

In the beginning, they envisioned dark Byzantine corners and drapes, miles and miles of sumptuous cloth reaching from ceiling to floor.

Then came the Paris Opera House, with its opulent statuary, its grand staircase and subterranean lake. There were other influences: Degas, Lon Chaney, Greek Orthodox churches, Venice at night, the masks worn by disfigured World War I veterans, a BBC documentary.

These motley sources were the inspiration for the design of "The Phantom of the Opera," the Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster that has nabbed every theatrical award possible -- and broken every advance box-office record -- since it opened in London in 1986. The knock-'em-dead extravaganza returns to the Wang Center for the Performing Arts for an eight-week run that begins Saturday.

"Phantom" is a show of never-ending visual wows: the eerie descent into the Opera Ghost's lair, with ramps that go this way and that and a den lit with so many points of light; the staircase that seems to go on until tomorrow; the young diva's mirrored dressing room; that crashing chandelier.

By now, the dazzling effects are familiar to millions of theatergoers, since "Phantom" has traveled to cities all over the world. (The upcoming run is the show's second visit to Boston.) But back when director Harold Prince approached lighting designer Andrew Bridge and set and costume designer Maria Bjornson, there were no rules, no limits, just possibilities. "We started with a blank sheet of paper," Bridge recalls during a telephone interview from his London home.

The team began by visiting the Paris Opera House, the setting for Gaston Leroux's 1911 novel about a deformed composer who haunts the catacombs under the building and who develops a fatal attraction for the young singer, Christine Daae. The Opera House really does rest over an underground lake -- and a city of sorts. "It was absolutely amazing," Bjornson says from London in a separate phone interview. "There's a stable down there for about 100 horses, and on one side, there is a prison."

Bjornson, who has an international reputation as a designer for opera companies, began researching like crazy. But the key came when director Prince suggested she take a look at the BBC report on disabled people falling in love. "It was the core to the whole thing," she says. "It's fairly obvious: Why shouldn't they want to be in love? Everyone has a right to be in love."

That set the tone for the central character, and thus for the world he inhabits. The Phantom is not a simple villain driven by murderous intent, but rather a complex figure fueled by passion, emotion, that crazy thing called love. "He's not just a serial killer; he's an erotic character," says Bridge. "He's a tortured sort of soul, and it's more exciting if he lures her into an erotic den than into a killing ground. The seduction is very present in our design -- the symbol of the candles, the shimmering water on the lake."

The attempt, Bridge says, was to create an environment that was "sinister with an erotic feel." Consider the false proscenium that frames the stage. It is sculpted with 37 classical nymphs and cherubs, evoking the formality of the Paris Opera House. But the statues are not innocent: They're captured in states of orgasmic ecstasy. "We took images of grandeur and made them slightly sinister," Bridge explains. "The proscenium looks lovely and gold, but there's a bit of rape and pillage going on up there."

Bjornson added an element of ritual to the eroticism. Some 181 shimmering candles rise from the stage to form the underground lake, creating a mystical, ethereal aura. "I was trying to make a ritualistic journey," she says. "I was impressed by the Lon Chaney film," the 1925 silent classic. "The Phantom has prepared and planned for years. It's a journey into the subconscious. The set is the visual exclamation mark of the message of the play."

That message is dark: At its core, "Phantom" depicts what happens when a man is torn apart by the world and robbed of any chance at requited passion. That's why Bridge saw his role not as lighting the stage, exactly, but as "moving the darkness around." Part of the challenge was to use contemporary technology to re-create the flat, muted lighting of the Paris Opera House in the 1880s. He wanted soft candlelight for the lair scene, but modern fire codes prohibit real flames. So Bridge used low-voltage lamps built into silicon tapers. "They simulate real candles, but actually they're quite safe," he says.

The set is extraordinarily complex, requiring 37 scenery and electrical-system operators and 60 crew members. The whole production includes 184 traps in the company's touring deck, 479 lighting instruments, 230 costumes, 21 large winches, 54 motors, 35,000 plastic beads on the chandelier and one elephant.

But despite the mind-boggling details, both designers contend that many effects are subtle and leave much to the imagination. Little snippets suggest various thoughts. A troupe of little girls dancing in a shadow evoke images of Degas' ballerina sculptures. The smashed mirror in the Phantom's den symbolizes the tortured mind of a man who can't stand the sight of his own face. The crowd scene on the staircase (which, by the way, includes 15 life-size mannequins) is a haunting party, a fete in which the revelry can't completely mask the sadness.

Pulling all this off, of course, is a monumental task. "Every department is at full stretch," Bridge explains. "The dressing department, the lighting department, the wig department, the musical department are all working full force. It's a very, very busy little show."

And each production has to be tailored to an individual theater. At the Wang, for example, the ceiling had to be reinforced with steel beams to hold the chandelier. The "Phantom" producers footed the bill: $60,000 for 2 1/2 weeks of construction.
Both designers won Tony Awards for their efforts (Bjornson walked off with two, one for sets, the other for costumes). Critics have offered unqualified raves for the visual effects -- even those who have carped about the Lloyd Webber score or argued that the show is heavy on spectacle and short on soul. The designers brush off these complaints. "There is a lot of pyrotechnics involved, but hopefully, the effects don't take over the show but just enhance it," says Bridge, a good team player. "In the end, it comes down to the book and the story and the performances and the music. If our production values enrich that, then we've all won."

Bridge argues that "Phantom" is finally just a love story, noting that if you could walk backstage after the curtain falls, you'd see a stage that's almost bare. Everything is tucked away neatly -- the chandelier, the staircase, the lake, the lair. "All the gimmicks are forgotten," he says. "It closes with a pathetic little love scene."

In fact, the title character vanishes in the final moments. In the end, there is nothing. A phantom of a phantom. A black box. Air.

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  LadyCDaae on Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:07 pm

The attempt, Bridge says, was to create an environment that was "sinister with an erotic feel." Consider the false proscenium that frames the stage. It is sculpted with 37 classical nymphs and cherubs, evoking the formality of the Paris Opera House. But the statues are not innocent: They're captured in states of orgasmic ecstasy. "We took images of grandeur and made them slightly sinister," Bridge explains. "The proscenium looks lovely and gold, but there's a bit of rape and pillage going on up there."

I was just thinking about how well the proscenium reflects the overall mood of the story, and does it in an almost subliminal way. You have the beautiful women (some of whom sport angel wings) and the male satyrs (symbols of carnal lust, whose appearance was later appropriated to depict demons in Christian imagery) all tangled up together. Their faces are gaping and mask-like. Some of the women look like they're enjoying the satyrs' ravishment. Some look terrified. Some could go either way. Sacred and profane, desire and revulsion, beauty and ugliness. It's grotesque, sensual, disturbing, and gorgeous all at once. It's a magnificent piece of theatrical setting, and an impressive work of art.

~LCD

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  Paula74 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:27 pm

Terrific article. It's a great reminder of how much detail went into the original set design and how much that detail adds to the whole texture of the show...even if it's the sort of thing you're not actively thinking about when you're watching the show.

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  Jennie on Mon Aug 04, 2014 7:38 pm

LadyCDaae wrote:
The attempt, Bridge says, was to create an environment that was "sinister with an erotic feel." Consider the false proscenium that frames the stage. It is sculpted with 37 classical nymphs and cherubs, evoking the formality of the Paris Opera House. But the statues are not innocent: They're captured in states of orgasmic ecstasy. "We took images of grandeur and made them slightly sinister," Bridge explains. "The proscenium looks lovely and gold, but there's a bit of rape and pillage going on up there."

I was just thinking about how well the proscenium reflects the overall mood of the story, and does it in an almost subliminal way.  You have the beautiful women (some of whom sport angel wings) and the male satyrs (symbols of carnal lust, whose appearance was later appropriated to depict demons in Christian imagery) all tangled up together.  Their faces are gaping and mask-like.  Some of the women look like they're enjoying the satyrs' ravishment.  Some look terrified.  Some could go either way.  Sacred and profane, desire and revulsion, beauty and ugliness.  It's grotesque, sensual, disturbing, and gorgeous all at once.  It's a magnificent piece of theatrical setting, and an impressive work of art.

~LCD

Also, the appearance of the proscenium changes with the lighting. Not sure exactly how and when, but I think that it looks more... "angelic" but sensuous in the first part of the show, and later you see the satyrs and twisted face more clearly... Must keep a lookout next time I see the show....

Fascinating thread, there is so much behind what we see on the stage, thank you for sharing, everyone.

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

Post  NightRachel on Tue Aug 05, 2014 3:45 pm

LadyCDaae wrote:I was just thinking about how well the proscenium reflects the overall mood of the story, and does it in an almost subliminal way.  You have the beautiful women (some of whom sport angel wings) and the male satyrs (symbols of carnal lust, whose appearance was later appropriated to depict demons in Christian imagery) all tangled up together.  Their faces are gaping and mask-like.  Some of the women look like they're enjoying the satyrs' ravishment.  Some look terrified.  Some could go either way.  Sacred and profane, desire and revulsion, beauty and ugliness.  It's grotesque, sensual, disturbing, and gorgeous all at once.  It's a magnificent piece of theatrical setting, and an impressive work of art.

~LCD

^This.
Well said, LCD!  Smile 

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Re: Maria Björnson's designs

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