Isabella Bywater

Designs & Directs Opera & Theatre

Isabella has designed sets and costumes for over 50 productions of both opera and theatre in the UK and internationally. She has collaborated with many acclaimed directors including Jonathan Miller, Nicholas Hytner, Deborah Warner, Robert Carsen, Francisico Negrin, Keith Warner and Stephen Medcalf. She is also a sculptor and has studied philosophy at Birkbeck University of London. She was nominated for awards for best set design and best costumes for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Mariinsky in 2011, a production which won the Zolotov Sofit award for best opera for 2011.

Isabella is now also directing. She had her debut directing and designing Gounod’s  Faust at the Mariinsky theatre in St Petersburg in April 2013 conducted by Valery Gergiev. Since then she has directed and designed Lucia di Lammermoor for Den Jyske Opera in Denmark which opened in March 2014, and La Boheme for San Diego Opera In January 2015.

Isabella is currently preparing the Puccini’s IL Trittico: IL Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, as designer and director for Oslo Opera, to open in October 2018 and February 2019.


Lucia Di Lammermoor at Danish National Opera – Director & Designer
‘It was a thriller… a brilliant event – clear and inspiring” John Chritiansen, JCKlassisk

‘A really great staging… a positive surprise… Five stars. *****” Flensborg Avis, Rigmor Eybye

‘Grippling and moving. The mad scene was paralysing – violent, gentle, wild, despairing and dreamy, leading down several paths at once. An unexpected ecstasy. Four stars. ****” Gregers Dirckinck-Holmfeld

‘The performance of the famous mad scene was insane… it elevated Den Jyske Opera. Four stars. ****” Kristeligt Dagblad

‘A very compelling and gripping performance. Four stars. ****” Ole Staarup, Aarhus Stiftsidende

La Boheme at San Diego Opera – Director & Designer
‘A wonderful verismo production designed and directed by Isabella Bywater’  David Gregson Opera West

‘You have to give Isabella Bywater credit. The director of the opening production of the San Diego Opera’s 50th anniversary season, Puccini’s “La Boheme,” she knows how to keep things real on stage. You can only marvel at the detail and ingenuity of her rotating sets, which transform themselves from a garret to a Paris street in the Latin Quarter and back again…the most telling aspect of this appealing production, was her emphasis on making “La Boheme” a work of musical theater..’ James Chute San Diego Union-Tribune

‘Award-nominated British director Isabella Bywater, who also sported the chapeaux of set and costume designer, made a noteworthy SDO debut’  Erica Miner Opera Pulse

Faust at the Mariinsky Theatre – Director & Designer
‘ Isabella Bywater’s Faust at Mariinsky: fresh ideas, rich colours, musically responsive. Knocks out the Victorian stuffing ‘  Rupert Christiansen @TelegraphOpera

‘ Much to Bywater’s credit the director turned this sentimental opera (Faust) into a production that is more philosophical… toyed intelligently with the divine and the devilish ‘  St Petersburg Times

La Traviata at Mariinsky Theatre – Set & Costume Designer
‘In the new production of La traviata visuality dominates… Beautiful, detailed scenery… a huge elegant carousel…a general metaphor of the performance’ Gyulyara Sadykh-zade – Neva Times 20 June 2015

‘Due to Isabella Bywater’s rich, very expressive set the performance won visually’ Vladimir Dudin – Russian Journal 24 June 2015

The Elixir of Love at English National Opera – Set & Costume Designer
‘ Setting the action in 1950s america, Isabella Bywater’s set is (quite literally) dazzling… ‘  OMH
‘ There are all the exquisitely realised details.. The dusty, rusty corners of the   hopper set designed by the brilliant Isabella Bywater ‘  The Artsdesk
‘ The revolving bubblegum-coloured diner and the chorus girls’ rockabilly swing dresses, designed by Isabella Bywater, look postcard-perfect ‘  Observer

Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden – Set & Costume Designer
‘ Isabella Bywater has designed a magnificent set ‘  Daily Telegraph
‘ exquisitely designed ‘  Observer

La Boheme at the English National Opera – Set & Costume Designer
‘ The designs are charming and ingenious…’  Opera Review
‘ The stunning semi-monochrome paris imagined by Isabella Bywater is thrilling in its atmosphere and versatility ‘