Last weekend a concert version of Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice’s musical CHESS was staged at Dalhalla, a former quarry in central Sweden, which has been transformed in to a spectacular outdoor arena renowned for its outstanding acoustic qualities.
Although neither Benny or Björn attended the concerts, their personal representative, Görel Hanser and her husband were among the 4000+ capacity audiences.
Marking the 30 year anniversary of the release of the original concept album in 1984, the concerts were sung through in English by a celebrated cast including Anders Ekborg in the role of the American, Gunilla Backman as Florence, Philip Jalmelid as the Russian, Sarah Dawn Finer as Svetlana and Johan Schinkler as Molokov. They were backed by the Stockholm Concert Orchestra and a 50 strong choir from Stockholm’s Music Gymnasium.
Talking before the concerts, Gunilla Backman told icethesite: “It’s fantastic to do CHESS and finally I get to play Florence, which is a dream come true for me,” she said.
Anders Ekborg agreed, “Performing anything of Benny and Björn’s is always pure joy, but none more so then CHESS,” he enthused.
The shows’ conductor Anders Eljas (who co-arranged, orchestrated and conducted the original music for CHESS, directed the London Symphony Orchestra both for the album recording and 1984 European tour and more recently conducted Göteborgs Operan’s 2012 updated production), said he could not express how much CHESS means to him. “This music lives inside of me, it flows right through me,” he explained.
The performances largely followed the original ’84 set combined with a few elements taken from the 2008 Royal Albert Hall concerts. The one notable difference however, and for many the highlight of the show, was the addition of Svetlana’s He Is A Man, He Is A Child. Not included in the original score, Han är en man, han är ett barn, first appeared in Chess på Svenska in 2002 and has never previously been heard in an English language production.
This week, Benny confirmed to icethesite that a remastered version of the original concept album, including several bonus tracks as well as a DVD of the videos and an SVT special, is scheduled for release in November 2014.
Below is a gallery of photos from Dalhalla.