That Old Feeling: ABBA, Without Apologies

  • Share
  • Read Later

(5 of 5)

Yet I want to see a real, new Andersson-Ulvaeus show on Broadway. And I have reason to think it will come. With Herbert Kretzmer (who worked on the West End version of the French musical "Les Miserables"), they are preparing an English production of their 1995 operetta "Kristina fran Duvemala" (Kristina from Duvemala). Based on the novels by Vilhelm Moborg, which inspired Jan Troell's "Emigrants" films around the time ABBA was forming, "Kristina" traces the trek of a 19th-century Swedish couple as they try to make a living, and a life, in their barren town and then in the equally, but differently, inhospitable United States. The show has Swedes, Americans, Indians; a sacrificial whore and the death of a child; and — in case you think it sounds too solemn for your tastes — a bilingual fart joke.

"Kristina," available on a Swedish CD, is not only the first substantial piece that Andersson and Ulvaeus have written in their native language; it's the one of the most ambitious swatches of musical theater (39 songs!) since Gershwin's 1935 "Porgy and Bess," with one of the most serious, lyrically seductive scores since Rodgers and Hammerstein were creating their midcentury, midcult epics. Think of the loveliest melodies from "Chess" ("Mountain Duet," "You and I"), then multiply by 2-1/2 hours. And if there's not a surefire pop hit in the whole steamer trunk, "Kristina" boasts dozens of gorgeous numbers: folk tunes, marches, love songs, rage-against-the-midwinter-night songs and, of course, anthems — Benny's done more of them than Francis Scott Key and Irving Berlin put together.

Don't wait for "Kristina" to come to Broadway or the leather-bar juke box. Don't even wait for Kretzmer to translate it for the West End (besides, you can find an English-language libretto on the net). Buy the CD and dive into the musical rapture. Tunes with funny titles — "Min Lust Till Dej," "Ut Mot Ett Hav," "Nej," "Hemma," "Min Astrakan," "Glden Blev Till Sand," "Vildgras" and the immortal "I Gott Bevar" (really!) — will be haunting you in no time. By the end of "Kristina," I think you'll be joining me in saying, to Benny and Bjorn: thank you for the music, three ABB-odacious decades of it.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. Next