"The first time I read Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants was in high school. Probably because I had to, it was required reading. I retained only a few images from the story. Ulrika of Vastergohl of course, her body. Remember, I was just a teenager. And, for some reason, Karl Oskar as he led his oxen through the forest.
"It doesn't seem like much but there were these images in my head when, as an adult, I returned to the story. Personal images. While reading all four of the novels in the series about those emigrants from Småland, one envisions what the people looked like and how they lived. It goes without saying that the characters in the book are vivid and realistic.
"When Jan Troell's films appeared, his images replaced mine I would say. Ulrika now had Monica Zetterlund's face, Max von Sydow's character became the exact figure of Karl Oskar. When I began rereading the books to find out if making a musical of The Emigrants was feasible, the faces from the films emerged. The faces of the musical came later, much later. When we wrote Chess, we knew that we were writing the main role for Elaine Paige. It was different for Kristina from Duvemåla. Though it's true that Mats Nörklit, Benny's brother-in-law, proposed Helen Sjöholm since he was involved in the Enskede Theater. So we heard her quite early. She was here in the studio and sang together with Tommy Körberg. But despite that we held auditions for 1,200 people at a rather late date before we made our decision. There is something remarkable about auditions. One doesn't know exactly what to look for. But when one stumbles across it, one recognizes it immediately.
"When I traveled to Minnesota while working on Kristina from Duvemåla, I visited the set locations which Jan Troell selected for his film. I noticed how well-chosen those spots indeed were. It was the same feeling I got when I saw the places which Moberg looked at when he wrote about Karl Oskar's and Kristina's log house beside Lake Ki-Chi-Saga. Moberg selected a perfect setting, I thought, just the spot the Smålandsman, Karl Oskar, would have deemed suitable. That meadow down by the lake.
"We had known for a while that we would do another musical after Chess. Already in the later stages of Abba, our songs employed the elements of a musical, a certain outpouring of emotions, strong and distinct feelings. Actually, I had never been particularly impressed with musicals, but eventually I changed my views. The genre of the musical developed as I gradually learned how to get music and text to work together.
"What happened to musicals is that West Side Story departed from the old Oklahoma tradition. Musicals began to tell stories in music and words in a new, more modern way. We had already talked about musicals before finishing with Abba. About how to pursue a story line through music and drama. We continually said that when we were no longer motivated with Abba, then we would simply move on. Do something else. Tell a story in another way. And that's the way it went. The energy ebbed out of Abba and it was time to focus on something fresh.
"And that's what happened. New horizons. The collaboration with Tim Rice resulted in the production of Chess in London. And the experience from that led in turn to Kristina from Duvemåla. Now we're telling one another, Benny Andersson and Lars Rudolfsson and me, that we really must do this again."
TEXT from WWW.DUVEMALA.COM
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