The first time I’ve heard about musical Chess was at my Swedish courses, while our teacher ask if we know who wrote the musical Chess. I will be honest, we had no idea who was it. And then she told us that they were Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, who were the reason of the two letters B in ABBA. So, after those names it became clear why it was so sensitive question for the Swedish teacher. However, in a couple of weeks I decided to check it in wonderful Gothenburg Opera. Thanks to my dear friends I got a ticket!
The story happened during the Cold War. There are two main heroes, and I am sure that you have already guessed there are Soviet and American chess-players. However, the musical is not about chess as a game. Politics, love, betrayal and history of the 20th century are harmoniously intertwined in the plot. For the first time the “Chess” was staged in the States and was in English. But in Gothenburg there is performance of the Swedish version, what could make a certain difficulties for people who don’t speak Swedish. Nevertheless I’m sure that music is comprehendible without words! It’s undoubtedly wonderful.
As I was born in Soviet Union, it is always very sensitive for me to see how the life at that time is presented. However, when the Soviet red flag had been raised in the final of the first part of the musical during spectacular sang “I mitt hjärtas land” (“The land of my heart”), it was outstanding and very touching. Philip Jalmelid played Anatoliy – Soviet chess-player – did sing wonderful.
I have to admit that Chess, written during Cold War is full of stereotypes and prejudices, however, I hope that serious viewer will not take for granted all clichés in the musical. Anyway it is strange to expect that the musical will be a sort of research in contemporary history. It’s just a show which aims to entertain and to amuse spectators. And the goal had been achieved. And it is always a big pleasure to spend evening with great music.