Kristina at Carnegie Hall

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”

After the show there was an accidental encounter with ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, Kristina director Lars Rudolfsson, and Benny and Björn’s long-time business manager (among other things) Görel Hanser. Also met up with Kristina herself, Helen Sjöholm, at the after-show reception.

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One Response to “Kristina at Carnegie Hall”

  1. Samuel Inglles Says:

    http://www.aftonbladet.se/nojesbladet/scen/article5852885.ab

    Aftonbladet Nöjesbladet
    Published: 2009-09-25
    World-class, Helen
    New York-audience arose and shouted
    NEW YORK. 15 cent says in the stamp with Helen Sjöholms face.

    But “located” affischnamn is worth very much, much more.

    Helen from lifts Björn and Bennys songs to heavenly heights. She writes nöjeshistoria on a rich scene.

    Not to Helen from seems take of immediate seriously. In the audience sit Broadways ruler, in walls echoes of all legends which occurred in Carnegie Hall.

    But Helen from does not seem to be more nervous than if she stood in people’s house in Sundsvall.

    She sing so people are becoming with, and after her great version of’ You have to be there “jumping audience up in a standing ovation and crying bravo. Applause would never silent.

    A strange to experience.
    The story sprakar

    It is not just that Helen from sing better than all the others. She has a skådespelarrutin and sensitivity which makes that “Kristina” and the story sprakar.

    Translation into English functions very well. The Swedish terms have been replaced by American with the same from charging. “Half-hearted evenings in the spring” have become the “Twilight images calling’, and instead of astrakanen as it on the” summer rose apple tree “.

    In this now version is’ Kristina “two hours and a quarter of an hour. It is generally only songs, but in some places tell artists document. Behind scene is shown black and white photographs, and then and then rolls text explaining time and place.

    Great songs

    Lars Rudolfsson has given “Kristina” a rigorous and stylish framed. In the last concerning scene is shown an apple trees in the background and while music will abate out sliding the photograph over in colour.

    Beautiful and dignified manner.

    It is not only Helen from which impressive. Russell Watson matches her good that Karl-Oskar and has an interesting voice which can move from opera to pop without losing credibility.

    Kevin Odekirk may tonight’s other standing ovation when he makes “Gold can turn to sand’ and Louise Pitre is strong as Ulrika. Both when she sing, and such storyline that Douglas.

    In particular lifts all talented artists up what a fantastic collection songs it is. “Kristina” is a rich musical with many of the expressions and temperament. We can detect and rediscover tunes and slings in the powerful musical fabric.

    Waiting for musikalen fun, it is also sometimes, even if grundhistorien is heavy and full of sorrow. “Think that men that he can be’, which in Swedish was a words around confusion, have become the” American it “. A fun kvinnohyllning städande matlagande to the priest.

    Konserterna in Carnegie Hall stresses that “Kristina” is a strong musical also in English. The next step should be to be placed on the right.

    The Broadway. With Helen from.

    World-class we always call our top marks when we of.

    From is beyond world-class A skald expressed it in immediately after “located” first.

    Jens Peterson

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