Who is John Macfarlane?

Scottish designer John Macfarlane is regarded as one of the world’s leading designers for opera and ballet. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art and received the Leverhulme Prize upon graduation. Early in his career, he served as resident designer at London’s Young Vic Theatre.

John Macfarlane at work // © Simon Regan

John has designed for major dance companies around the world. His work includes Jiří Kyliàn’s Songs of a Wayfarer, Les Noces, Dreamtime, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Piccolo Mondo, The Soldier’s Tale, Forgotten Land and Tanzschul for Netherlands Dans Theater; and Glen Tetley’s The Fire Bird at Royal Danish Ballet, Weigenlied, La Ronde, and Tagore at National Ballet of Canada, and Dialogues at Dance Theatre of Harlem.

In addition, John designed Giselle for The Royal Ballet and, for Birmingham Royal Ballet and Australian National Ballet, he designed Nutcracker, which earned him an Olivier Award nomination. In 2010, he designed, for Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cinderella and Asphodel Meadows, which was also nominated for an Olivier Award (he was nominated for a third Olivier Award for Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk for the Royal Opera House). In 2012, he designed Liam Scarlett’s Sweet Violets and Age of Anxiety for The Royal Ballet, among other collaborations. John’s upcoming dance projects include further classical ballet productions for the Royal Ballet London.

In recent years, John has focused on costume and set design for opera and has created works for numerous companies including the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago’s Lyric Opera, Welsh National Cologne Opera, Scottish Opera, Paris Opera, and Vienna Opera, among others.

In 2007, he won an Olivier Award for his first production with Richard Jones of Hansel and Gretel, for Welsh National Opera (he has won a total of three Olivier Awards for production’s he has designed). His second production with Richard, The Queen of Spades, won the Royal Philharmonic Award.

In 2016, John designed the sets and costumes for the world premiere of Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein at The Royal Ballet. His designs, richly detailed and sumptuous, were called “lavish” by The New York Times. SF Ballet, co-producers of the ballet, presents the North American premiere of the production in February 2017.

In addition to his opera and dance work, John is a painter and printmaker who exhibits his work regularly in the UK and Europe. In 2006, he was named Chevalier of France’s Order of Arts and Letters. Currently, John serves as a fellow of The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

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Video: Liam Scarlett on creating Frankenstein

Liam Scarlett on his new full-length ballet, inspired by Mary Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.

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Video: The Gruesome Historical Influences Behind Scarlett's Frankenstein

Designer John Macfarlane gives an up close look at the set and props of Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein

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