By Emelie Krugly Hill | Photos: Karin Thörnblom
Peter Jöback is celebrating a 30-year long career with the lead role in one of the world’s most prominent musicals, The Phantom of the Opera. We caught up with Sweden’s biggest singer and musical star a few days before his move to London.
Peter Jöback’s career began as an 11-year-old, and his silky smooth voice captivated me in the early 90s, when I saw him on stage for the first time in Fame – The Musical in Stockholm. I was 13 years old and quickly developed my first secret crush on this handsome brown-eyed and extraordinarily talented artist.
A few years later, in 1995, Peter experienced a huge breakthrough with the ABBA duo Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson’s hit musical Kristina från Duvemåla, an interpretation of Swedish author Vilhem Moberg’s four novels, charting a family’s poverty-driven migration from Sweden to America in the mid-19th century. It was not only Jöback’s big break on the musical stage, but also meant a spot on Sweden’s musical charts, where he remained for no less than 110 weeks, with the song Guldet blev till sand (The gold turned into sand). For his role as Robert in the musical, he received the prestigious Guldmasken award.
Since then, he has moved between the two popular spheres of musical theatre and pop. He has sold over a million albums, and one of them, Jag Kommer Hem Igen Till Jul (I’m coming home again for Christmas) has become somewhat of a modern Christmas classic in Sweden. Peter has toured sold-out concert halls and has been praised for musical roles both in Sweden and internationally.
Taking on the Phantom
Jöback is on his way to the airport when I catch him on the phone. It is only a few days before his move to London, having been handpicked for the lead role in The Phantom of the Opera, now in its 26th year at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End.
So how does one prepare for such a grand role? “I just don’t know,” Peter says. “I prepare myself as best I can. I’m not sure you can fully prepare for a job like the Phantom. But I believe the magic will happen in the moment. I will, of course, be terribly nervous on stage at the premiere, but I have decided to try and enjoy every single moment.”
“It’s the perfect time to enter a new era, and it feels fantastic! I feel very grateful for this opportunity and to be working with such an incredible cast. It’s a dream role and a great starting point to return to the stage after a long break.”
It is not the first time Jöback has performed in the West End. In 1997, he was offered the lead as Chris in Miss Saigon, and three years later, he took the role of Michael in the original cast of The Witches of Eastwick. He remembers that the expectations were high and the pressure as well, but overall it was exhilarating. Soon work offers arrived from Sweden, and Peter decided to move home to focus on his career on his home soil.
“Fourteen years on and I have so much more experience and am feeling much stronger,” says Peter, who is more than ready to meet the British audience again. “I have a long career behind me now. I notice that people have respect for me; it feels wonderful.”
“I love London and the British audiences; they have been very supportive. Hopefully I’ll have some time to visit my favourite spots, such as Notting Hill, Hyde Park and my favourite seafood restaurant in the Michelin House in Knightsbridge,” Peter reveals.
Pulling the brake
In 2009, after a long career with numerous major roles, shows and successful albums, he abruptly took some time out, cancelling all jobs, and moved to New York to seek a more balanced life. That same year, the SVT documentary Happy, Handsome and Unknown was released. For the first time, he talked about how his troubled past with issues concerning sexual abuse and an alcoholic father had caught up with him. However, his inner journey over the last ten years has made him stronger than ever.
“Today, I have an amazing life and an inspiring career. Now, I have peace with everything in my life and am not ashamed at all.”
It was during his time in New York that he attended the audition for Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, mostly just for fun, and was almost picked for the lead. When the opportunity in London was offered to him off the back of this, Peter did not hesitate.
The Phantom turns 25
When The Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 25th anniversary in October last year, Peter participated in the jubilee performances held at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was broadcast live to cinema audiences in several countries.
“It was a huge honour to be there with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the legendary producer Cameron Mackintosh on stage; it was basically musical history. They were very happy and very encouraging,” says Peter. “It naturally felt great and was the best possible start to an exciting journey.”
Current and future projects
Recently, Peter Jöback released a new album of songs by famous French composers that have been translated into Swedish, something he describes as a dream project. A short film was also produced with the same title as the album, La Vie, L’Amour, La Mort; it is a dramatic tale of an entertainer’s love, life and death, where Peter Jöback plays his French alter-ego, and which includes actresses Izabella Scorupco, Melinda Kinnaman and Emma Sjöberg-Wiklund.
Peter Jöback recently also followed in the footsteps of his idols, Frank Sinatra, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavours, on a trip to New York, Paris and Berlin, in the Swedish TV documentary Med hjärtat som insats, to discover the secret of immense fame and how to become a true entertainer.
And what about his next project? “First of all, I will return to Sweden for a rest and enjoy my new residence on Värmdö outside of Stockholm. I’m longing to work behind as well as in front of the camera; I keep pitching ideas to Swedish television,” he says.
Last year was a big one for Peter in many ways, as he turned 40 and also married his long-term boyfriend Oscar Nilsson. “Our wedding was amazing, and I will remember that day for a very, very long time. It was a powerful ceremony of love for us and all our friends.”
Peter Jöback will star as the Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London from 19 March until September 2012.
For more information, please visit: www.peterjoback.com