I discovered this remarkable musical by American group Sparks earlier this year courtesy of an internet surfing session. It is not like other modern day musicals in that it isn’t a juke box musical nor is it one based on a movie. It is a fictional story based on real life film director, the Swede Ingmar Bergman. The combination of music by Sparks and the Swedish connection drew me in.
The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman was originally commissioned by Swedish Radio. Brothers Ron and Russell Mael (aka Sparks) were asked to develop a musical as part of a series to be broadcast on Swedish Radio. The musical had to have a Swedish element so Ron and Russell, both film buffs, came up with the idea of Hollywood trying to seduce Ingmar Bergman into making films there. An unusual idea but one that works very well.
The radio broadcast version was in both English and Swedish. A limited edition Swedish CD was released of only 1,000 copies which appears to be as rare as hen’s teeth. I tried to hunt it down the last time I was in Stockholm without success so ended up getting it via iTunes. An English language version came out later and I was able to get that CD. It was produced for a special one-off performance at the LA Film Festival 2011.
I have long admired Ron and Russell Mael and their work as Sparks. They have had a long and varied career and have never been afraid to try something new. The music in this project is epic and dramatic and I love to play it really loud when I get the chance. There are plans to turn it into a full stage production and eventually a film. I would definitely make the effort to see that.
Here is one of my favourite songs from the musical, “Garbo Sings”. This appears as a fantasy sequence as Bergman is trying to escape Hollywood. Greta Garbo appears as a vision to help guide him back to Sweden. Awesome stuff.
And here are some clips from the LA Film Festival performance.