Kristina från Duvemåla opens in Helsinki

Main poster design for 'Kristina' Helsinki

Kristina is up and running again!

February 29 2012, saw Kristina från Duvemåla (now officially credited to Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and director Lars Rudolfsson) finally emigrate beyond the shores of Sweden in theatrical, rather than concert form. Not to the hallowed pavements of Broadway or London’s West End but to a small theatre in Helsinki, Finland which features works in Swedish by Swedish creatives.

Outside the theatre, large searchlights illuminated the Helsinki night drawing attention to the première within. Benny’s sons Ludvig and Peter (the latter accompanied by Nanne Grönvall), Tommy Körberg, BAO member Göran Arnberg and Finnish singer Arja Saijonmaa mixed with the creme de la creme of Helsinki’s Swedish community, diplomats and invited dignitary friends of the theatre.

An hour before curtain up, the official ribbon cutting and opening of the theatre took place in the auditorium and then at 1830 we took our seats for the start of what was to be an illuminating trip both back and forward in time.

First things first: the Svenska Teatern Kristina experience is almost fundamentally unchanged from the production that went up in Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm in the 1990s. The show is around 15 minutes shorter, but the staging and set is identical.

Kristina från Duvemåla opened 29 February at the newly refurbished Svenska Teatern, Helsinki

The biggest change of course is the cast. Most notably the principals Maria Ylipää as Kristina, Robert Noack as Karl Oskar, Oskar Nilsson as Robert and Birthe Wingren in the role of Ulrika.

And what a fine job they carried out! Each of them did absolute justice to the roles, there is no question about that.

Maria Ylipää makes for an outstanding Kristina and whilst she cannot quite match Helen Sjöholm’s honeyed tones and breathtaking acting chops, boy does she come close. She is totally in charge of her crystal clear voice, perfect diction (albeit with quite a pronounced Finnish accent at times) and acts with both charm, sincerity and a likeableness that makes me want to return for more. An absolutely brilliant choice. I promise if you see it, you will love her!

Robert Noack (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jake Gyllenhaal) is again, a fine singer. He doesn’t posess the brooding intensity which Anders Ekborg brought to the role of Karl Oskar but instead brings a more spirited and youthful side, which in some ways seemed to work slightly better. The chemistry between him and Maria Ylipää in the roles was spot on and really drew me into their relationship and their world.

Maria Ylipää and Robert Noack as Kristina and Karl Oskar

The part of Robert as played by Oskar Nilsson was perhaps the most dramatically different portrayal in the new production. And again, I really liked it. It was Robert as we knew him from before but played with a lighter touch which actually served the show well. By ‘lighter touch’ I mean that for me he didn’t quite fill Peter Jöback’s shoes in terms of audience connection – especially during the reprise of Ut mot ett hav – but that meant that the show flowed more evenly on its way towards Du måste finnas and on to its heartbreaking finale.

Ulrika from Västergöl, one of the most vivid characters in Kristina was aptly played by Birthe Wingren. Not as huskily voiced as Åsa Bergh, Wingren still managed to bring to life the passion and complexity of the character and her interplay with the other cast members (particularly with daughter Elin as Robert starts to get interested in her was magnificent).

So, what were the changes? As I mentioned above, there were really not many but some that stand out are that the character of Fina-Kajsa doesn’t recount the history of lice in Löss. The train journey from New York to Stillwater takes place during the song Hemma which (if memory serves me correctly) used to be accompanied by a brief excerpt from Machopolska (from Benny’s November 1989 album). There is no ‘Red Indian’ character during Red Iron/Hjälp mig trösta, there are a couple of notes changed during Ett Herrans underverk and a few shorter musical interludes are spoken instead of sung through but honestly, take it from me, it is essentially the same glorious show as it has always been but in a more intimate setting (Svenska Teatern only holds around 600 people).

It has of course been a long time since anyone has had the opportunity to sit down in a theatre and watch the full theatrical production of Kristina från Duvemåla unfold before them and as someone who has always been a huge fan of the show, it felt absolutely wonderful to see this masterpiece come to life once more. It was like experiencing a flower that had been in a long hibernation and was now unfolding and sharing its beauty with the world once more. It was an almost overwhelming feeling. Something that I thought would never happen again in quite the same way…did! And is happening (until 21 December)!

Of course, in the meantime, there have been the two concert versions – the one in Sweden which was a direct musical copy of the original stage show and then the English concerts put on in New York and London and made available on CD. But to see and hear the show in Swedish again was incredibly special and to be blunt, far better than seeing the concert versions in English.

And you can rest assured that the Helsinki cast do the show absolute justice, paying homage to the way the show was originally conceived and at the same time breathing new life into it. The 24 piece orchestra under the direction of Hans Ek is absolutely top notch and special mention must also be paid to the acoustics in Svenska Teatern which are sensational.

Great credit must also go, of course, to Benny, Björn and Lars. The temptation must have been there at the beginning to make changes for change’s sake but thankfully they must have come to the conclusion very early on that ‘if it ain’t broken, why fix it?‘.

The opening night audience’s verdict? Long, rapturous applause, a standing ovation lasting nearly 10 minutes and the demanding of umpteen curtain calls!!

Kristina från Duvemåla: Scenes from opening night and day

More information:

There is a small selection of merchandise available in the theatre. As well as the 16 favoriter CD at €12, programmes €5 and lyric books at €3, there are very nice quality T-Shirts (in both black and white) featuring the Kristina från Duvemåla stamp logo and lettering for €15 and mugs for €8.

Watch short excerpts from the Finnish production (requires up to date Quick Time viewer):

Related links:

Tags: , , , , ,

20 Responses to “Kristina från Duvemåla opens in Helsinki”

  1. Gerard 04 Mar, 2012 at 9:10 PM #

    Great report for those who, like me, couldn’t be there in Helsinki. Thanks!

  2. Stefan 05 Mar, 2012 at 12:49 AM #

    Dear Icey,

    thank you for this great report. Thanks to brave men like you, who run a fan website, we all can virtually take part in all exiting news around Abba and B+B.

    Thank god, it will not be that virtually, as I will see the show in April and my longing is getting even more stronger with reading your verdict about the show.

    KR
    Stefan

  3. Marco Dirven 05 Mar, 2012 at 6:47 AM #

    Great report. It was one of my most thrilling nights in theater ever.

  4. monique 05 Mar, 2012 at 10:42 AM #

    please bring out on dvd the swedish version of the musical Kristiana!!! Many people would love that and cannot wait!!! PLEASE!!!

  5. Mikko Suhonen 05 Mar, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

    They made a dvd of the 2002 swedish version of Chess. While it might be too much to ask, why wouldn’t they do the same again with the new production of Kristina. I saw it on saturday, and it was worth every euro I paid for the tickets.

  6. John Bernhardt 06 Mar, 2012 at 4:05 AM #

    So what’s with Lars Rudolfsson now be included in the main credits? Has he done something different in this version? Are they finally getting around to crediting him because he helped write the book and direct. Maybe, he actually wrote some of the lyrics, back in the day, and were only just finding that now?

  7. Ice 06 Mar, 2012 at 6:35 AM #

    @John:

    The lyrics are credited in their entirety to Björn.

    But you’re right in as much as, Lars directed and constructed the book for Kristina från Duvemåla including having Kristina as the pivotal role.

  8. Adam 06 Mar, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

    I have just seen Kristina in Helsinki expecting to have a feeling afterwards “well the original was better” but NO I DID NOT have this feeling at all!!

    When I left the theatre I couldn´t say “the original was better”!!

    The whole cast and the production was simply great!

    Thay have done some very small changes here and there for the better I think and the cast are all very good with great voices and good acting!

    I can´t say Helen is the best Kristina!

    Maria Ylipää has a great voice and she acts very well and she has done her own interpretation of Kristina which is good!

    I also think the clothes they are wearing this time are better, more authentical somehow and the whole production is just beautiful!

    Somehow I think this musical has matured. Lars Rudolfsson (the director) said they wanted this production to be better and they have suceeded!

    I hope the worst critics of the “concert version” go to Helsinki to see the musical as a whole as this is the way you should see the musical.

    So I can only say to everyone out there GO TO HELSINKI TO SEE KRISTINA! It won´t cost you a fortune and you won´t regret it!

    Please don´t get the back seats on the balconies (behind the pillars) as part of your view of the stage will be blocked by pillars and people´s heads!
    The next time (and there will be a next time!) I will get the most expensive seats to have a good view!

  9. Mikko Suhonen 07 Mar, 2012 at 10:04 AM #

    I haven’t seen the original version in Sweden so I cannot compare, but I would not want to if it was possible. I saw the new version on Saturday 3. March and was really moved, as I expected to be.

    As stated by Adam, the cast did a wonderful job. Even Kinga Szabadváry who played Ulrika instead of Birthe Wingren, was outstanding.

    The only problem, as Adam stated, was the view from the balcony, where the view was limited. If I straightened my back I could see it all, but if I sat comfortably, the third of the stage was out of my sight.

    Fortunately the sound reaches every place as the acoustics of this old theatre is excellent.

    Another distraction was the subtitling machine which I held in my hand. I can speak some swedish and I know the story from start to finish, but I still could not stop following the excellent finnish translation. This made me, at several times, forget to look at the stage where the action was actually happening,

    So next time I will go to see the show, I will have better seat and I’ll leave out the translation. I will concentrate and enjoy the whole piece, the lovely music, the talented cast, the astounding set and the moving story. A perfect package!

  10. Ulla 07 Mar, 2012 at 4:30 PM #

    Hi Ice,

    we met at the SvenskaTeaterns ticket office :-) Nice to see you in Helsinki!

    Thanks for a great report. I share all of your views!

  11. Mikko Suhonen 31 Mar, 2012 at 11:27 AM #

    Hi, according to Kristina från Duvemåla newsletter from Svenska teatern, tickets for the spring 2013 will come available later this year. So if you didn’t get tickets for this years shows (some are still available), look forward to the tickets for 2013!

    But the most important thing is, it won’t be over 21. December, it will continue…

  12. Christopher Griffin 01 Apr, 2012 at 6:28 PM #

    I can only hope that the West End won’t have to wait too long for Kristina to finally arrive. The score is so astonishingly good, not a dull moment musically. Too many musicals are padded out with sub-standard numbers with maybe one or two decent tunes woven an otherwise drab fabric. I can’t imagine Benny Andersson ever giving anything less than 100% when it comes to the music and Bjorn has matured into a very good lyricist over the years. Congratulations on a sublime achievement!

  13. Dominic May 17 Apr, 2012 at 3:33 PM #

    I have just been to this afternoon’s performance of Kristina and had a fantastic time. I was lucky enough to also see the original production when it played at Cirkus in Stockholm in 1999 and so can compare the two versions. Interestingly although billed as running 3 hrs 35 mins including the interval, today’s performance ran to 3 hrs 50 mins (which was what Stockholm also ran to). I think the interval in Helsinki was definitely longer though. Today’s performance featured understudy Glenn Daniel Nillson as Karl Oskar (he usually plays Pastor Jackson). I’ll be able to compare performances if Robert Noack plays the role when I see it again tomorrow, but if not all I can say is Nillson was superb and was equal to Anders Ekborg in my view. I was also taken with Maria Ylipää as Kristina (I never saw Helen in the role in Stockholm and I felt Maria was definitely stronger than the alternate I saw on that occasion). Lots of memories of Stockholm came flooding back while I watched the Helsinki show today, Unless my memory plays me false, one major change has been the costuming of the background dancers, who appear periodically. I seem to recall the original costumes were quite surreal and maybe someone can correct me but I recall at one point being made to think I was looking at dancing sperms. Anyway the current show has dancers but they are all costumed to fit in with the time and place even used in a dream-like way. A really nice addition is a sung version of the main theme from the overture (also reprised during Min Astrakan) which turns up during first half of Act One. I have no idea what the lyrics meant but such a beautiful tune has always deserved some additional enhancing. I don’t know if it was always the case with the original production but the role of Danjel is played as a much older character than I recall originally,

  14. Dominic May 17 Apr, 2012 at 3:51 PM #

    Not quite sure why I was cut of while commenting but here’s a bit more: I am pretty sure some of the dialogue between Robert and Elin on the ship was cut down quite a bit. I may be remembering incorrectly here, but I seem to recall in the original the men and women were separated during the ship’s voyage and Karl Oskar sang Stanna but not with Kristina cradled in his arms as in Helsinki. Could be wrong though. This version was very moving though. I won’t comment on changes that have already mentioned by others but I was disappointed that A Sunday In Battery Park was so cut back. I also seem to recall the original’s staging of the number had much more production value than Helsinki. Män Som Han Kan Finnas is slightly cut now and I think there may be some new lyrics (but that could just be my inabiliity with Swedish) – in fact I believe there have been a number of lyric adjustments throughout the piece, But changes notwithstanding it is still a wonderfully moving show and I would recommend anyone with a heart goes and sees it. I am one of those who actually feel it sounds better sung in Swedish than in English so am really happy that this new production has been produced and I wholeheartedly endorse those who would like to see a DVD of the show akin to Chess pa Svenska.

  15. Adam 23 Apr, 2012 at 10:49 AM #

    The tickets for Kristina January to May 2013 have now been released!!!

    You can buy tickets easily on the finnish webside http://www.lippu.fi write Kristina in the search field and you will easily find it.

    If you choose balcony seats please do NOT choose the cheaper rows at the back behind the pillars as your view will be blocked!
    I would at all times choose the most expensive seats up front for a good view!
    Enjoy! :)

  16. Mikko Suhonen 24 Apr, 2012 at 8:50 AM #

    English version of http://www.lippu.fi can be found at http://www.lippu.fi/tickets.html?language=en . The cheaper seats are now even cheaper, which is a good thing, as some seats in the higher balconies have limited view. But as Adam said, the show is worth the most best and most expensive seats. And 86 is not that much is it (yes, the most expensive seats have become a little more expensive than in 2012).

    A quick glance at the http://www.lippu.fi-pages, it seems that the best seats for most of the shows have already been sold. So be quick even if the tickets were just released.

  17. Claude 24 Aug, 2012 at 3:35 AM #

    HELLO ALL! Does anyone know if a CD has been released of this cast? Thank you!

  18. Mikko 18 Sep, 2012 at 12:39 PM #

    No, no there is no new recording with the Helsinki cast, and I don’t believe there will be either. The 1995 recording is perfect, so there is no need for a new recording.

    I’ve mailed couple of times to Mono music and Görel Hanser and asked about a dvd release of the Helsinki production (the same way as Chess på svenska was released), but the answer was that at this moment no dvd release is planned.

  19. Christopher Griffin 11 Nov, 2012 at 10:30 AM #

    Just returned to England after seeing Kristina for the first time. A masterpiece! Faultless production, lovely theatre, even better in Swedish..though understanding not a word and relying on the Carnegie Hall rendering from memory. Great cast and orchestration. Beyond belief this show isn’t in the West End! Helsinki was also lovely, efficient and clean. Never thought I’d go there but for the musical so I hope to return for a longer visit.

  20. Adam 30 Nov, 2012 at 11:21 AM #

    Glad you enjoyed it!
    I will be going back to Helsinki in February to see it AGAIN…..
    So those of you who have not seen it please take the opportunity and go and see it….. I liked the Finnish setting even more than the original in Sweden!

Leave a Reply