Midsummer Night's Dream

 

Midsummer Night's Dream ballet choreographed 2015 by Alexander Ekman, with assistant ballet director Mikael Jönsson, for the Royal Swedish Ballet. Music by Mikael Karlsson; lyrics by Mikael Karlsson and Anna Von Hausswolff. Performance seen here was staged in September 2016 by the Royal Swedish Ballet at the Stockholm Opera (Artistic Director Johannes Öhman). Stars Dragos Mihalcea (The Dreamer), Jenny Nilsson (Hostess), Sarah-Jane Brodbeck (Mistress), Lea Ved, Ross Martinson, Amanda Åkesson, Devon Carbone (Love Couples), Daria Ivanova, Desislava Stoeva (The Dreamwomen), Johnny Mcmillan (Mr Canon), Ross Martinson (A Bubbler) and Daniel Norgren-Jensen (A Chef On Pointe), Clyde Emmanuel Archer (Man with the Flag), Preston McBain, Devon Carbone (Headless Men), and Anna Von Housswolff (A Singer). Also features string quartet Dahlkvistkvartetten, percussionist Niklas Brommare, and pianist Henrik Måwe. Set design by Alexander Ekman; costume design by Bregje Van Balen; lighting design by Linus Fellbom; live processing by Roger Bergström and Maria Grönlund; sound design by Lars-Göran Ehn and Andrea Rea; makeup by Betina Stähle and Virginia Vogel; production manager was Ann-Christin Danhammar. Film directed by Tommy Pascal; Director of Photography Charles Sautreuil; produced by Xavier Dubois; line producer Coline Jolly.   Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B-

This ballet was inspired by the customary Swedish Midsummer Eve Festival celebrated on a Friday late in June, originally to honor the sun on the longest day of the year. It has nothing to do with the Shakespeare play (except that perhaps the festival and the play both can be traced back to ancient Pagan traditions). Ekman's Act 1, a depiction of the festival, begins when the Dreamer (Dragos Mihalcea seen below) is awakened early and closes when the Dreamer puts flowers under his pillow at the end of the longest day of the year.  Act 2 is the dream that follows (during the shortest night of the year):

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The Festival has a lot to do with hay. Throwing hay around reminds me of Ekman's A Swan Lake, which had famous scenes about throwing water around:

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Ekman likes to present the audience with the unexpected. Next below you see that the stage has been extended over the orchestra pit. The music for this Midsummer Night's Ballet is provided by musicians on the stage in the background:

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Here's Ekman's version of the traditional ring dance around a decorated pole (phallic symbol):

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The celebration includes games like the sack race below for kids of all ages and toasts for the adults. Only in a ballet could one try to drink a toast while jumping in a sack:

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The Swedes like to have festival feasts at long tables. Standing next to the table is the blond vocalist Anna von Hausswolff, who co-wrote the music and appears constantly wandering about the stage singing:

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Of course, there's plenty of beer, wine, and spirits:

And there's always a spike of Swedish babies born late in March or early in April:

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But our dreamer doesn't have a partner. He gathers wild flowers (7 or 9 varieties) and puts them under his pillow. This will allow him at least to dream tonight of a love to come:

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Act 2 is the dream. The next 4 shots show some of Ekman's surreal images. :

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Towards the end, Ekman starts running out of ideas and the dream starts looking like my gym. We call this move "the bridge":

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This next shot reminds me of my platoon sergeant in the Army:

Now it's time to wake up:

The dream has lasted for a year, and now it's time to go to the festival!

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To make a good dance piece, you must start with gripping music. To me the best thing about this title is the all-original music of Mikael Karlson and Anna von Hausswolff, which is performed by only 7 of the people seen taking a bow below (a string quartet, Anna von Hausswolff, a percussionist, and a piano player). So how can 7 people make enough music to fill an opera house? With excellent sound design and amplification. I think the man and lady on your far left in the shot below are Lars-Göran Ehn and Andrea Rea, who get credit in the keepcase booklet for sound design of this show and its recording. Bravi Guys!

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The image used by BelAir on the keepcase and the booklet inside doesn't appear in the film and is definitely puffing. I think the concept and the actual choreography here are a bit thin, and that this title will not have huge appeal south of the Baltic Sea. With ordinary music, I would probably give this a C. But the strong music and sound design suggest a grade of B- for this ballet, which keeps it out of the zone of damnation by faint praise. Call it the torment of moderate praise.

Here's the official BelAir YouTube clip: