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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 1 April 2017
Abba fan must have
As good as the last musical chess
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on 14 April 2010
What a wonderful recording in English (at long last!) of brilliant music. I've had the Swedish version of 'Kristina fran Duvemala' for many years and know the music well, so just one listen after the CD arrived from Amazon on the evening that the show is being performed in the Royal Albert Hall #April 14th# has been enough for these comments.

Considerably shorter than the Swedish version #I've had no time yet to work out what is 'missing,'# maybe this is the reason the story appears to move forward perhaps faster than the original. For example, the wonderful song, 'Wild Grass,' which is a reminder of the treatment of native Indians in the USA in regard to land in the 19th century but manages to #almost# convince one that the settlers breaking in the land have a strong case, appears to be rather isolated in its sentiments.

But then I didn't even know what the song was about until tonight anyway!

So it was also rather disconcerting to discover that one of my favourite tracks from the Swedish version is actually about an iron stove called 'Queen of the Prairie!' And how nice to pick up the humour in what is a serious musical in songs like 'Lice' and 'American Man.'

I love it all, but who can argue with the fantastic audience responses to the aforesaid 'Wild Grass #Russell Watson in excellent form#, 'Gold Can Turn to Sand' #Kevin Odekirk - with another idea that appears and disappears very quickly#, and the brilliant rendition of 'You Have to be There' #Helen Sjoholm#.

If the orchestrations I have been used to in the Swedish version sometimes disappear in this production #I especially found this in 'Emperors and Kings#, it is a small price to pay and in no way takes away from a 5 Star recommendation. ABBA it is not if new-comers are looking for reminders of a distant past. But the music repays several listens and just shows us how talented Bjorn and Benny are, as 'Chess' showed #with Tim Rice on lyrics of course#.

After all this time #'Kristina' goes back to the mid -1990's#, surely Bjorn and Benny have got another musical in them!! Until they produce another one, open a bottle of wine, lay back with your eyes closed, and enjoy 'Kristina!'
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on 28 March 2010
Having been a big fan of Benny and Bjorns masterpiece Krsitina fran Duvemala since its incpetion on the Swedish stage in 1995, we finallly have an English translation release - live from Carnegie Hall New York last September which I attended. Benny and Bjorn commenced work in 1990 on this epic telling the story of the fate of the Swedish Immigerants moving to America in the second half of the 19th century.
Over a million Swedes saw the stage production clocking in at over three hours. But they did not mind as Benny's folk traditions wove their web around Bjorns lyrics.

Finally a UK premiere on 14th April at the Royal Albert Hall, and the timely release of this masterpiece featuring Helen Sjholm, Russel Watson, Kevin Odekirk and Louise Pitre.
Do not expect ABBA whatsoever, what you have here a mature piece of work from B + B with many future classics. The highlight for me is You Have to Be There sung by Helen which simply is the best work they have ever written.

Simply stunning and moving *****
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on 21 April 2010
I was completely unaware of this work and probably would have remained so had I not been a huge fan of Russell Watson, so I am grateful that wanting to hear him singing in it brought it to my attention. I was completely captivated the moment I heard it. An extremely emotive and moving story of the hardships faced by the Swedish migrants who faced the unknown in search of a better life for themselves and their families, I couldn't help feeling empathy for them.
The work is beautifully sung by the whole company, full of passion, excellent performances. Helen Sjoholm as 'Kristina' gives a heartfelt rendition of 'You Have To Be There' and I could feel her desperation and anguish. Russell Watson sings his part of her husband Karl Oscar magnificently and with great emotion, ranging from anger and frustration to the heart-melting tenderness of which he is always capable. Strong performances too from Kevin Odekirk and Louise Pitre as 'Robert' and 'Ulrika', and from the children and the rest of the cast.
I didn't know what to expect from the music but was pleasantly surprised with plenty of variation and one or two 'Whoa - Abba!' moments (especially in 'Lice'). The use of rock guitars especially in the second act seemed a bit incongruous at first and slightly weird but it all adds to the experience.
All in all, apart from a couple of cringe-making lines in the translation, it's a brilliant 'listen', and something I'll return to over and over again, as long as there are enough tissues in the world!
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on 4 January 2011
Sadly I was out of the country when Kristina was performed at the Albert Hall last year, which I now realise was more of a loss than I ever imagined.

I do think that Kristina is best appreciated over a number of listens. Gradually the sheer magic and emotion of the music envelopes you, and the richness is very rewarding. There are many musical highlights quoted in other reviews, but frankly its all good. It is more Les Mis than Mamma Mia.

The story is very evocative, although I can imagine that it does not immediately grab as a West End musical, as it is relentlessly sombre!! The ending is truly moving (I did find myself embarrassingly in tears in public once, as I listened through my earphones).

Go on! Take a chance! Its f-abba-ulous.
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on 1 May 2010
I already was a huge fan of the epic original Swedish version of this musical (which I highly recommend even when you don't understand a single word of Swedish). I was aware of the concert performance of Kristina like the one presented here and the one that recently took place in London, but it was a huge surprise finding out about this recording.

And what a wonderful recording it is. The live performance has soundboard quality and the 50 piece orchestra is truly magical. Some songs fade in comparison to the original Swedish (studio) cast recording, such as 'Wild Grass' and the finale of 'You Have to Be There'. Still there are the magnificent vocals of the original Kristina, Helen Sjöholm and a rather good performance of the American Karl-Oskar, that sounds very much like the Swedish original.

The biggest, yet slight disappoinment is what they have done to 'Gold Can Turn to Sand'. The intro of the song was a seperate track on the Swedish record and is now glued to the end of 'Wild Grass'. Also, the singer has a good voice but sings the song a wee bit too rapidly, like he's in a hurry. Of course I have the original performance of Peter Jöback in mind, which is absolutely breathtaking.

Yet, these are all minor flaws. I understand about 50% of the original Swedish lyrics and now understanding it fully in English is such a treat. The cd has 48 page booklet with all lyrics (with some minor mistakes). The English translation needs some polishing (it is by the lyricist of 'Les Misérables'), even though the translation is still pretty decent and throrough. This is an epic score, with folk based tunes, of opera proportions and a slight popular touch and a small nod to the work of ABBA (especially 'Home' and 'Wild Grass'). It is such a shame most of the world is unaware of this gripping musical. A must buy!
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on 29 May 2010
Firstly I must say that I am a BIG fan of the original Swedish recording of this musical. Generally I like this (the English) recording, although I personally think that some of the best moments/songs were omitted in this version. This naturally had to be done to get the play down from 3h to a more audience friendly length. If you don't know the original Swedish version then I think you will like the English version. I however will always choose to listen to the original, albeit in Swedish, because I think that is how the play was intended to be. Also I think the quality of the original production is much better than the Carnegie recording. I was dissappointed to hear that at times the audience applause overwhelmed the music. But to judge by the applause one can hear that the audience really appreciated what they heard. A plus point is that some narration was added so it is easier to follow the story line.

Personally I think the music of Kristina is some of the best there is in terms of modern musicals and this English version will certainly make it much more accessible to the world. If you are a Chess fan I am sure you will also enjoy this one - although don't expect the same thing, this is much more "classically"/folk oriented. Give it some time and you will find the music really grows on you and soon the melodies will linger in your head.
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on 29 March 2010
My wife and I have owned and listened to the Swedish cast recording of Kristina for the past several years, so we didn't have to think twice about traveling to New York to see the concert version with English lyrics. Simply some of the most gorgeous music ever written. The two evenings we spent in Carnegie Hall were among the best of our lives. So much so, that we are traveling to London to see Kristina at Albert Hall on April 14. I don't know what we are looking forward to the most--attending the concert or taking home the CDs. I have never anticipated purchasing a CD set as much as this. It has been a long several months waiting for it. By the way, "Gold Can Turn to Sand," one of the hits from the CD set is featured this week on the Elaine Paige BBC 2 radio show (week of March 28, 2010). Listen if you want to be turned on to some beautiful music. Elaine does make a mistake in announcing that the singer is Russell Watson. No, it is a young and talented Kevin Odekirk who sings that song. Russell is in the cast and does a good job, but kudos go to Helen Sjoholm, the Swedish star who originated the title role in Sweden. Her performance of "You Must Be There" produced huge standing ovations both nights. An absolute masterpiece within a masterpiece. Forget ABBA. Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus should be remembered for Kristina.
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on 23 June 2011
This English concert version of Kristina is a curious companion piece to the Original Swedish set.
Helen Sjholm in the title role is superb as always and remains the star of the piece.
Pop/Opera singer, Russell Watson, brings just that to the piece, half pop and half pseudo Opera. Purists of both genres may find some annoyances in his vocal. Some of his attempted operatic affectations can make his delivery and interpretation somewhat stiff.
Kirk Odekirk, as Robert, has one of those very, somewhat overpolished Broadway type voices, that whilst you can't criticize technically, can sometimes sound a little phony and leave you relatively unmoved.
He lacks the emotional depth and raw honesty that Peter Jobeck brought to the original recording.
The translation still needs alot of work-if they must persist down that path-as the English libretto can sound rather hokey and somewhat trite at times.
To me, the piece is better suited to the Opera Stage: limited performances, big orchestra, original language, subtitles etc...
Why dumb it down for the Broadway/Westend stages?
It will only diminish the work, not improve it.
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on 2 April 2010
I suppose the first thing to say is that this is absolutely nothing like Mamma Mia nor (most) Abba music. Think of a Swedish/American 'Les Miserables' and you won't be far out.

That said, there are those who think that this music represents Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus' greatest achievement to date - a very respectable viewpoint (though I personally think that 'Chess' still pips it by the merest whisker). But what is certain is that it a truly magnificent piece of work.

Don't expect, though, a series of songs sung conventionally. This is a (concert version of a) musical and, as such, there is a fair bit of narrative within, and sometimes between, the songs. To some extent this disrupts the continuity of some of the melodies.
And the lyrics of some of the songs are very specific to the storyline - definitely not karaoke stuff.
But these area small issues when compared with the magnificence of the whole.

I had intended to comment on individual songs but soon found myself repeatedly trying to find another way of saying 'beautiful melody'. Just take it as read!
It's not all about flowing melodies, however: you've got a handful of fun songs; folk-style music of Scandinavian and North American idiom; and an absolute belter of a showstopping ballad in 'You have to be there'.

Like many great works, it may take a few hearings to fully appreciate it - but it will be well worthwhile.

Somewhere in Kristina lies a truly great musical stageshow, the main problem being of one of length for a 'West End-style' production: there is simply too much good music. Some problem! So while Benny and Bjorn (and others) try to work this out, just sit back and enjoy.

Incidentally, this review was NOT written in early April ie. before the release of the CD. Not quite sure why Amazon has dated it 2 April.
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