Last week I travelled to New York for Kristina – A Concert Event at Carnegie Hall, the English language premiere of Benny and Björn’s 1995 masterpiece Kristina från Duvemåla.
Kristina in English has been a long time coming. When Mamma Mia! opened on Broadway in October 2001 there was talk that a draft translation was ready for presentation then. In 2006 a workshop was held with a hope for a full production within a couple of years, however it was not to be as prospective financial backers at the time declared “sad doesn’t sell”.
So finally Kristina has been presented to New York in concert form. The concert starred Swede Helen Sjöholm, who originated the role of Kristina, British tenor Russell Watson as her husband Karl Oskar, Louise Pitre, who originated Donna in Mamma Mia!in North America, as Ulrika the reformed whore, and Broadway star Kevin Odekirk (Les Miserables) as Karl Oskar’s brother Robert.
Kristina tells the story of Karl Oskar and Kristina who, after hardship and famine in Sweden, emigrate to America with family and friends, some of whom are escaping religious persecution. It is based on the Vilhelm Moberg series of novels The Emigrants (Utvandrarna).
English versions of several songs have been heard over the years, but this is the final version that may one day see a full stage production. Lyricist Herbert Kretzmer, who worked on the translation of the French musical Les Miserables, contributed his expertise to the English lyrics.
As a non-Swedish speaker I have long enjoyed the music and had an understanding of the story, but not of the actual lyrics. Unofficial translations have been around on the internet for many years. Finally I, and other English speakers, could enjoy the whole show. The English lyrics are a success, in some cases greatly different from the Swedish versions but changed for the better with the new language. Though cut down from the source novels and cut down further from the Swedish stage version, the major story elements remain intact.
The concert was well received, with Helen Sjöholm receiving a standing ovation for her act two showstopper ‘You Have To Be There’ (Du måste finnas), and another standing ovation for the curtain calls. Over the following days the show received mostly positive reviews in newspapers and theatre websites.
In the photo above I’m in the third row, in front of Kevin Odekirk.
Kristina was recorded for future CD release. Hopefully we won’t have to wait a year, as we did with the 2008 Chess in Concert.
See more first hand reviews @ icethesite.
New York Post blog posts by Elisabeth Vincentelli:
The road to ‘Kristina’
Chatting with “Kristina” director Lars Rudolfsson
Benny and Björn on ‘Kristina’
Benny and Björn talk influences
Louise Pitre on her Carnegie Hall debut
Kristina on “Kristina”