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Review: FANNY UND ALEXANDER – Original Cast Recording – Haunting Adaptation of Bergman's Classic Movie!

The best new Norwegian musical ... sung in German

Review: FANNY UND ALEXANDER – Original Cast Recording – Haunting Adaptation of Bergman's Classic Movie!

Review: FANNY UND ALEXANDER – Original Cast Recording – Haunting Adaptation of Bergman's Classic Movie! It is not every day a new Norwegian musical gets a cast recording. A reason for this is the fact that new original material is seldom produced in a big scale in this country, and let alone getting the proper treatment every musical should get - namely to get immortalized so that we can enjoy them, way after the last performance was played. As a result of the big institutions not really taking this genre seriously and especially new original musicals creative teams such as Gisle Kverndokk and Øystein Wiik must look elsewhere to get their work produced. Which is why Fanny & Alexander, based on Ingmar Bergman's Swedish classic, is sung in... German.

Landestheater Linz, which is based in Austria, is an Opera house that employs both opera singers as well as musical theatre performers under the same roof. The theatre produces both the big money-makers, but also new original works. Brava!

Fanny & Alexander was originally slated to open a few years ago, but then the pandemic happened and put all plans on hold, but it finally opened earlier this year. I had the pleasure of witnessing a workshop in Norway back in 2018, so I was eagerly awaiting listening to the end result and it did not disappoint. It's a gripping listen.

The plot focuses on two siblings Fanny and Alexander and their large family in Uppsala, Sweden during the first decade of the twentieth century. Following the death of the children's father (Karsten Kenzel), their mother (Sanne Mieloo) remarries a prominent bishop (David Arnsperger) who becomes abusive towards Alexander for his vivid imagination.

Review: FANNY UND ALEXANDER – Original Cast Recording – Haunting Adaptation of Bergman's Classic Movie!

This is the first time since Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" that an Ingmar Bergman movie has been musicalized (excluding operas). And since Bergman's movies often have common denominators it is hard not to look for comparisons in the music. Kverndokk writes beautiful, often haunting melodies but it is never obvious where the path may lead. I love his chromatic style which makes his melodies exciting and fresh, while at the same time never straying too far away for it not to feel relatable. While his music pays respects to the old masters of musical theatre, his style is very much his own. In regards to comparisons to "A Little Night Music" the opening (Laterna Magica) is a haunting dreamlike waltz that feels very much like a transformed theme from that show, but this may or may not be intentional, but I hope it is.

Øystein Wiik's lyrics are poetic in nature. The language is never more modernized than that it keeps the spirit of Bergman's intact, as well as all characters motives and emotions. The translation is also very close to the original text. The libretto does not shy away from the darker aspects of the human spirit, but there is indeed much humor in the text as well. Songs like " Majs Konditorei" is a prime example of this. While the some of the most beautiful words and music have been given to the "antagonist" in the piece. Edvard, the bishop who seduces Emilie, Fanny and Alexanders mother does this in a haunting duet called "Still in deinen Armen". Both characters shares a repressed passion and sexuality. She has not experienced this in her marriage while he is a man of God. Since he ends up being such an evil character later on, this moment is essential to understand while Emilie chooses him.

This musical is very much an ensemble piece, and the music is often driven by the characters emotions, hidden under the surface, but the the music reveals them. For anyone who have experienced any sort of mental or physical abuse the atmospheric score and words can feel all too familiar. The scenes between between Edvard and Alexander are not pleasant to listen to, but they are intended to be. They encompass the fright and frustration of Alexander (As well as Bergman, as this was based on his own experiences with his stepfather). Thankfully there as counter points such as the finale "Wonneland" which serves as a tribute to both the theatre and to life itself.

The singing and acting of all performers are intact here, and I am glad they decided to record live performances instead of doing it in a studio. I am really impressed by all the children. Especially Gabriel Federspieler's rendition of "Die schöne Arabella". There are also smaller moments that made me listen again and again. An example of this is "Wenn ich für immer geh'" where I was really moved by Karsten Kenzel as the dying Oscar. David Arnsperger and Sanne Mieloo gives the most powerful moments of this recording. Arnsperger has a beautiful baritone voice, and his commanding portrayal of Edvard is wonderful to listen to. Sanne Mieloo embrace both the strong and maternal qualities, as well as the passion that Bergman envisioned for Emilie's character.

The cast recording does what any great cast recording should. It keeps the spirit of the show and is a testament for future listeners long after the final performance. It makes me really wish I had seen this production live. I really hope to enjoy this musical in a venue in Norway, hopefully soon.

The cast recording can be enjoyed on both Spotify or Apple Music.



FANNY UND ALEXANDER

MUSICAL NACH DEM FILM VON Ingmar Bergman
LIBRETTO VON ØYSTEIN WIIK | MUSIK VON GISLE KVERNDOKK

Orchestrierung von Gisle Kverndokk
Deutsch von Elke Ranzinger und Roman Hinze

Musikalische Leitung Tom Bitterlich
Inszenierung Matthias Davids
Bühne Hans Kudlich
Kostüme Susanne Hubrich
Video Jonatan Salgado Romero
Lichtdesign Helmut Janacs
Dramaturgie Arne Beeker
Nachdirigat Juheon Han

Auftragswerk des Landestheaters Linz
Uraufführung am 16. April 2022 | Schauspielhaus Linz
Künstlerische Leitung Musical
am Landestheater Linz Matthias Davids

Helena Ekdahl Franziska Stanner
Oscar Karsten Kenzel
Emilie Sanne Mieloo
Alexander Gabriel Federspieler / Matthias Körber
Gustav Adolf Max Niemeyer
Alma Nina Weiß
Carl Gernot Romic
Lydia Daniela Dett
Edvard Vergérus David Arnsperger
Blenda Birgit Zamulo
Henrietta Tina Schöltzke
Isak Jacobi Klaus Brantzen
Maj Hanna Kastner
Ismael Retzinsky Alois Mühlbacher
Aron Retzinsky Lukas Sandmann
Fanny Aurelia Naveau / Muriel Nova
Jenny Viktoria Gruber / Rosa Gruber
Justina / Rosa Celina dos Santos




From This Author - Christian Ranke

Christian Ranke is the Norwgian translator of such musicals as EVITA, TELL ME ON A SUNDAY, WEST SIDE STORY. He has also translated musicals for regioanal Norwegian productions of THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK,... (read more about this author)


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