Giving the Gift of Abba

For Abba fans, 2024 will mark a major milestone: 50 years since the Swedish quartet of Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus won Eurovision and went on to global superstardom with hits such as “Mamma Mia,” “Super Trouper” and “Dancing Queen.”

And since Eurovision — the exuberantly kitsch annual song contest organized by the European Broadcasting Union since 1956 — is to be held next year in Malmo, Sweden, there is sure to be some kind of tribute.

“A half a century ago we stood on the stage thinking, ‘Oh, maybe we will end up at No. 6 and they will notice us in Germany and maybe even in England,” Mr. Ulvaeus said with a chuckle during a video call. “I still remember that moment when I woke up at four in the morning afterwards and then in the silence, it sort of sunk in that maybe this is the start of something big.”

Tickets to the nine live shows to be held in Malmo during Eurovision week haven’t gone on sale yet, but there are many other ways to shop Abba this holiday season — several of them in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

At Abba the Museum in the Djurgarden neighborhood, tickets for adult admission are 200 Swedish krona, or $19. And its online shop has a range of merchandise, from white and blue “Mamma Mia!” mugs to Abba albums in vinyl.

“I didn’t know that they had won Eurovision until after seeing the movie,” said Erica Patino, who was visiting the museum from Manila. She was talking about “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” a 2020 Netflix comedy starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams that began with footage of Abba’s 1974 win with “Waterloo.”

The museum chronicles each member’s childhood through to the band’s breakup in 1982 and the divorces of the two couples (Mr. Andersson and Ms. Lyngstad were married, as were Mr. Ulvaeus and Ms. Faltskog).

It can be downright schmaltzy: You can take the stage as the band’s fifth member to dance and sing to either “Mamma Mia!” or “Dancing Queen” and pretend to be recording songs such as “Chiquitita” in a replica of the band’s original recording studio.

But the museum also has compelling sections, like the recreation of Ms. Faltskog’s home at the time of her divorce from Mr. Ulvaeus and an audio tour in which Mr. Ulvaeus talks candidly about how he found it difficult to see his children growing up and becoming independent after the marriage ended.

Your Abba fan may not be the dinner theater type, but there is “Mamma Mia! The Party” — with performances running now in several European cities.

During its 2016-20 run in Stockholm, the show drew more than 350,000 people. And while Mr. Ulvaeus, the show’s executive producer, said it is not scheduled to reopen here until February, it is being staged through Dec. 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and in an open-ended run at the O2 arena in London (tickets start at 99 pounds, or $121).

It is scheduled to open on Sept. 18 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Copenhagen and a few other so-far-undisclosed cities are planned for 2025. “We are actively rolling it out right now,” Mr. Ulvaeus said.

Audience members are led to tables scattered around what is supposed to be a Greek taverna on Skopelos (also known as Kalokairi, the fictional island of the “Mamma Mia!” musical and movies). During a four-course meal — which, of course, includes Greek salad — there is a scripted performance with a smattering of Abba hits such as “S.O.S.” and “I Have a Dream.” After dessert, the evening turns into something of a tribute concert from the cast and live band, before they make way for a full-on dance party with recorded music of Abba songs and 1970s disco hits.

Also in London there is the Abba Voyage concert featuring 3-D avatars (called Abbatars), which opened in mid-2022 and is selling tickets through November 2024 (starting at £77). The 90-minute concert, held at the purpose-built Abba Arena on the grounds of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, portrays the band members as they looked in 1979.

The show, whose name was taken from Abba’s November 2021 album “Voyage,” involved filming the band members in motion capture suits and using body doubles to mimic their movements from archival concert footage. Reported to cost $175 million, the show is marketed as one of the most expensive productions in music history.

(If a London trip isn’t possible, there is the Abba Voyage online shop, selling gifts like socks with images of each of the four band members and a red, green and white Scandinavian sweater with the Abba logo knitted into the front.)

The stage musical “Mamma Mia!” also continues, with the international touring company appearing in Mumbai from Nov. 29 to Jan. 7 and a French-language production playing in Paris since October.

The show, which Mr. Andersson and Mr. Ulvaeus helped develop, has been staged in more than 450 cities and has grossed more than $4 billion since it premiered in London in 1999.

If the stage productions are too far away, there are always the movies — with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth dancing and singing their way around fictional Kalokairi — available for purchase or streaming. (There has been speculation about a third film. And while Mr. Ulvaeus wouldn’t rule it out, he said it would be “a matter of someone coming up with a great idea.”)

And, of course, there is Eurovision, where it all began.

According to Martin Osterdahl, the event’s executive supervisor, tickets to the final evening will be in great demand (2023 prices topped out at more than €425), so it might be easier to try for the semifinals or even the early rounds.

But might Abba be at the finale?

Mr. Osterdahl would say only that “the Swedish producers have not disclosed any information about the show content” — although, especially as it is scheduled in Sweden, there will certainly be nods to the anniversary.

Mr. Ulvaeus was somewhat more forthcoming. “I think the four of us will lean back and enjoy, more than being an active part of it,” he said.

“We thought it was the end of it when we split up, but I think this next year will be finally when I maybe understand that what has happened is miraculous and absolutely incredible.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com