Mikael Karlsson Bio

“Mikael Karlsson embodies the composer of the future.” (Dagens Nyheter (Sweden’s leading daily newspaper), Johanna Paulsson)

Mikael Karlsson lives in Harlem, NYC. He moved to New York from Sweden in 2000 and graduated Summa Cum Laude with departmental honors with a Masters Degree in classical composition from the Aaron Copland School of Music in 2005.

Mikael’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, Lincoln Center, MoMA, Park Avenue Armory, Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, Paris Opera, Oslo Opera House, Royal Swedish Opera House, Semperoper in Dresden, Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, Ingmar Bergman Center at Fårö, Joyce Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and at new music festivals and opera houses across the world.

His commissions for dance include works for The Paris Opera (Play – Ekman), The Norwegian Opera and Ballet (Rooms, A Swan Lake, Resin – Ekman; Player – Proietto), Vienna State Opera (Blanc – Proietto), The Paris Opera (Play – Ekman), NDT 2 (Left Right, Left Right – Ekman), Norrdans (Black Forest, Internally Black – Carrasco), Ailey II, the Royal Swedish Opera and Ballet (Tyll, Midsummer Night’s Dream – Ekman), The Semperoper (COW – Ekman), The Swedish National Touring Theater (Paper Plane – Carrasco), and many works for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (among others Tuplet – Ekman).

He has collaborated with the International Contemporary Ensemble, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Callie Day, Rosamund Pike, Anne Sofie von Otter, Black Sun Productions, Siri Karlsson (Cecilia Österholm, Maria Arnqvist), Lydia Lunch, Claire Chase, Joshua Rubin, Mivos Quartet, Sirius Quartet, The Dahlkvist Quartet, Raehann Bryce-Davis, Niklas Brommare, Blythe Gaissert, Amelia Watkins, Lauren Worsham, Eve Gigliotti, Isabel Leonard, John Kelly, Lennart Mårtensson, Guillaume Coté, Abby Fischer and pop singers Lykke Li, Anna von Hausswolff and Mariam Wallentin.

His first opera, The Echo Drift, premiered at the PROTOTYPE Festival in NYC in 2018 (librettists: Elle Kunnos de Voss, Kathryn Walat, directed by Mallory Catlett).

He is currently writing two operas with librettist Royce Vavrek. “Melancholia” (based on the Lars von Trier film, now directed by Slava Daubnerova) will premiere at the Royal Swedish Opera in 2023, and “Fanny and Alexander” (based on the Ingmar Bergman film, now directed by Ivo van Hove) will premiere at the La Monnaie Opera House in Brussels in 2024.

Together with Anna von Hausswolff, Mr. Karlsson composed the music for the Nobel Prize Banquet 2018. The pieces were performed by Ms. von Hausswolff, The Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra, members from the Royal Opera Choir conducted by James Grossmith, with Mr. Karlsson on piano and pipe organ.

Mr. Karlsson has released over twenty albums with works for orchestra, chamber works and soundtracks ranging from pop and film music to sound collages, dance scores and avant-garde concert music.

In 2007, Karlsson was included in Out Magazine’s Out 100 list of influential people. The score to his piece Nasty Fucker was published in Butt Magazine. In 2012, NYC Public Radio’s listeners voted him as one of their 100 favorite classical composers under 40. In 2016, he was one of the hosts of the highly prestigious radio show “Sommar i P1” on Swedish NPR.

In May 2014 he received the Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond award “for an exceptional mid-career composer” from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2021 Alexander Ekman and Mikael were jointly awarded the Falstaff Prize for their work together over the past 10 years.

Mikael enjoys an ongoing working relationship with celebrated choreographer and director Alexander Ekman. Since they first started working together, in 2012, the two have presented 9 stage works – among them “Play” (Paris Opera Ballet, 2018, 2021), “Tyll” (Royal Swedish Ballet, 2012; US premiere in 2015 by the Joffrey Ballet), “A Swan Lake” (Norwegian National Ballet, 2014), “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Royal Swedish Ballet, 2015), “COW” (Dresden Semperoper, 2016) and “Rooms” (Norwegian National Ballet, 2017). Karlsson composed an electronic version of the “Flocking” section from Alexander Ekman’s A Swan Lake for envelope-pushing fashion designer Henrik Vibskov’s SS15 at Paris Fashion Week and at Copenhagen Fashion Week.

Since 2014, Mikael collaborates closely with orchestrator, composer and French hornist Michael P. Atkinson, who either handles or shares orchestration duties for all of Mikaeil’s pieces with an orchestra. For the Scottish Ballet’s new version of Coppelia (with choreographers Morgann Runnacre-Temple and Jessica White), the two composed the score together. The show became a breakout hit of the 2022 Edinburgh International Festival, and will travel to Sadler’s Wells in London next.

In 2014 Mr. Karlsson founded his own production company, Rough State Sound.

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