On Saturday 25 October 2014, Kristina från Duvemåla, the Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Lars Rudolfsson musical based on Vilhelm Moberg’s classic series of novels ‘Utvandrarna’ (The Emigrants’), made its long awaited return to the Swedish stage with a spectacular premiere performance at Göteborgs Operan (Gothenburg Opera House).
Guests arriving for the event entered the theatre along a red carpet lit by twinkling candles lined with baskets of bread and fruit. Members of the cast sat upon old trunks singing a medley of songs from the show ‘a cappella’.
Inside, Benny, Björn and Görel Hanser, accompanied by their family and friends, including Ludvig Andersson, Peter Grönvall and wife Nanne, Kristina Lugn, Ingmarie Halling and Gunilla Backman, mingled with the premiere audience in the theatre’s foyer bar.
The 3 hour 50 minute performance ran without a hitch and the exemplary cast which features the same acclaimed quartet of principles as the successful 2012 staging at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, (Maria Ylipää as Kristina, Robert Noack as Karl Oskar, Birthe Wingren as Ulrika and Oskar Nilsson as Robert), accompanied by the Göteborg Opera Chorus and Orchestra, were rewarded with a long and rapturous standing ovation. To the delight of the audience, Benny, Björn, and Lars also took the stage for the final curtain call.
The original production of ‘Kristina’ opened in Malmo in 1995 before transferring to Gothenburg in ‘96 and then moving to Stockholm in ‘98. During its five year run, it was seen by over 1 million people and remains the most successful musical ever presented in Sweden.
However, the current staging has not been produced to the same epic proportions of its predecessor. Instead, it is the considerably scaled down version, designed for the smaller Finnish stage, that has been reproduced for Göteborgs Operan.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the premiere, Björn said: “The production in Helsinki far surpassed our expectations, so we felt that maybe it was time to bring Kristina back to Sweden. It is a bit more compact than before, but people who saw it the first time should recognise it and hopefully we can find a new audience as well.”
“The immigration debate in Sweden is more heated than ever and the number of refugees larger than it has been in a long time. A lot of our new Swedes, who see the show, recognise themselves in it. It is their story on stage, their feelings,” Björn explained.
Kristina från Duvemåla has been well received by the critics. They have especially praised, Maria Ylipää’s crystal clear voice and convincing acting and Birthe Wingren’s strong, feminist portrayal of Ulrika, while Benny’s music has been described as ‘world class’.
The production is scheduled to run in Gothenburg until next May. After a summer break it will transfer to Stockholm’s Cirkus theatre in September 2015.