‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ opens in Stockholm as ‘Mamma Mia!’ closes on Broadway

On Saturday 12 September 2015, almost 20 years after Kristina från Duvemåla first premiered at Malmö’s Musikteater, the latest and last official production of the Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Lars Rudolfsson musical opened at Cirkus theatre on the Stockholm island of Djurgården.

Benny & Björn on stage at the last premiere of 'Kristina'
Benny, Björn and Lars on stage at the Stockholm premiere of ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’

We will not ourselves stage ‘Kristina’ again. We have done it six times now and we all feel that is enough – Benny Andersson.

The red-carpet event was attended by all three of the show’s creators accompanied by their wives, family members and a host of famous faces including Görel Hanser, set designer Robin Wagner, Benny’s son Peter and Nanne Grönvall, Peter Jöback, Anders Ekborg, Ingmarie Halling, Gunilla Backman, Anders Glenmark, Anders Hanser and Kristina Lugn.

Featuring Maria Ylipää as Kristina, Robert Noack as Karl Oskar, Oskar Nilsson as Robert and Birthe Wingren as Ulrika, the Cirkus staging remains virtually unchanged from the hugely successful 2013/14 Helsinki and 2014/15 Gothenburg productions.

The experience of the cast was evident and the consistently strong, polished performances delivered seamlessly throughout the four-hour show were rewarded by rapturous applause and standing ovations from the first-night audience. But it will come as no surprise, that the loudest cheer of the evening was, undoubtedly, for Benny and Björn as they joined the cast and production team on stage for a curtain call.

Kristina’ will play at Cirkus until Spring 2016. However, regardless of the demand for tickets, it must then close. Extending the run is not an option as the theatre is already booked for subsequent seasons.

And Benny has confirmed to icethesite that this will be the very last opportunity for audiences to see the musical as they envisage it:

“We will not ourselves stage ‘Kristina’ again,” he said. “We have done it six times now and we all feel that is enough.

“The scaled down production designed for the smaller theatre space in Helsinki was an experiment. We were not sure it would work, but its success proves that it is a feasible project for any theatre, so maybe it is now time for someone else to have a go and do it their way,” he told us.

Benny added that although they had discussed recording the current production, with a DVD release in mind, they had decided against the idea.

“We see each performance as a living thing that is best experienced in a live theatre environment,” he explained. “So if people really want to see it they will have to come to Cirkus before next summer!” he said.

Recent press articles have drawn a lot of comparisons between the problems faced by emigrants like Kristina and those caught up in the current refugee situation. But Benny himself is not convinced that this will help Kristina från Duvemåla appeal to a new or wider audience as the media has suggested.

“It is incredible timing and seems very appropriate that we have opened now, but I don’t know if it will alter our audience numbers,” he said. “However, it is true that we are dealing with many of the same issues, so if the resemblance helps someone to think about and understand the plight of such people, well, that can only be a good thing for everyone, I suppose,” he concluded.

Judy Cramer at the final performance of Mamma Mia! on Broadway - Photo:David Gorden
Judy Cramer and cast at the final performance of Mamma Mia! on Broadway – Photo: David Gorden

By coincidence, as the curtain rose for ‘Kristina’ in Stockholm last Saturday, so it fell on the Broadway production of Benny and Björn’s other musical Mamma Mia! Therefore, although Mamma Mia!’s producer Judy Cramer was at the Broadhurst Theatre for the final performance (which was described by U.S. theatre critics as more like a rock concert than a Broadway musical!), neither, Benny or Björn were able to be in New York due to the clash of dates.

“We did send a video message to the cast to say ‘Thank you!’ though, ” Benny said. “And under any other circumstance we wouldn’t have hesitated to attend. But when it comes to a choice between an opening night or a closing night? Well, no contest!” he declared.

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Benny and the cast of ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ perform at ‘Allsång på Skansen’

Maria Ylipää, Benny Andersson & Robert Noack at 'Allsång' - photo:Niklas Lindman
Maria Ylipää, Benny & Robert Noack backstage at ‘Allsång’ –  Photo: Niklas Lindman

Yesterday evening, Maria Yilpää and Robert Noack, who will portray the roles of Kristina and Karl Oskar in Cirkus Theatre’s forthcoming production of Kristina från Duvemåla, performed two songs from the musical.

Du måste finnas and Min lust till dej were previewed at Stockholm’s annual music festival Allsång på Skansen (Sing-along at Skansen). The soloists were accompanied by Benny Andersson on piano and backed by members of the ‘Kristina’ cast and the Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester (Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra) conducted by Anders Eljas.

Benny accompanied the Kristina cast on the piano
Benny accompanied the Kristina cast on the piano

Towards the end of the hour-long concert, which also featured performances from Tommy Körberg, Lena Philipsson, Rigmor Gustafsson and Viktoria Tolstoy, Benny returned to the stage to lead the audience in a chorus of ABBA’s Waterloo.

The full concert together with some backstage footage was broadcast live on Swedish television and is currently available to view again on SVTplay.

Maria & Robert as Kristina & Karl Oskar-Photo:Cata Portin
Maria & Robert as Kristina & Karl Oskar-Photo:Cata Portin

Following hugely successful stagings in both Helsinki and Gothenburg, the Stockholm production of Kristina från Duvemåla premieres at Cirkus on 12 September 2015 and is scheduled to run until January 2016.

Tickets are on sale now via the link below.

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GöteborgsOperan ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ trailer

Not seen Kristina från Duvemåla before? Or even if you have, this wonderful collection of scenes and songs from the GöteborgsOperan production is sublime:

Kristina från Duvemåla from GöteborgsOperan on Vimeo.

‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ returns to Sweden

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).

'Kristina' returns to Gothenburg.    Photo: Mats Backer
The Gothenburg ensemble of ‘Kristina’ – photo: Mats Backer

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.

Benny, Björn and Lars on stage with the cast of 'Kristina' 25 October 2014
Benny, Björn and Lars on stage with the cast of ‘Kristina’ in Gothenburg

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.

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‘Kristina’ in Gothenburg – Benny and Björn attend first rehearsals

It is 18 years since Kristina från Duvemåla was originally staged at Göteborgs Operan, but in just over 9 weeks time, on 25 October 2014, the theatre will premiere a new production of the musical and yesterday, ‘Kristina‘s’ creators Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Lars Rudolfsson, were in Gothenburg to oversee the show’s first rehearsals.

Björn, Lars and Benny in Gothenburg.   Photo: Camilla Simonsson
Björn, Lars and Benny in Gothenburg. Photo: Camilla Simonsson

Featuring the same quartet of principles as the successful 2012 production at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, (Maria Ylipää as Kristina, Robert Noack as Karl Oskar, Birthe Wingren as Ulrika and Oskar Nilsson as Robert), the Gothenburg cast will be accompanied by the Göteborg Opera Chorus and Orchestra. The musical arrangements are by Anders Eljas.

Benny and Björn are both delighted to see Kristina return to the Swedish stage:

“It is great to be back at Göteborgs Operan. They have great facilities and there is a good feeling here,” said Benny.

Björn agreed: “It’s fun to work with Kristina again and I think it is fantastic that the musical has lived so long,” he said.

The 1990’s version of Kristina remains the most successful production of its kind in Göteborgs Operan’s 20 year history, seen by over a million people. However, the new staging is considerably different from its predecessor.

Benny explained: “The major difference is that both the ensemble and the orchestra are half the size. We originally did this to make room for the show at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, but it is up and running and works well in the format, so we decided to continue with it. But we will do the best we can, just as we did back then, for this to be as good as it possibly can be,” he said.

Kristina will be performed a total of 99 times in Gothenburg between October and May 2015 (it does not play every night). After a summer break, the production is scheduled to transfer to Stockholm’s Cirkus theatre next September.

Watch a short video (in Swedish) of Benny, Björn and the cast of Kristina at yesterday’s rehearsal.

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Have you bought your ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ tickets yet?

KristinaGothenburgTickets for the Benny Andersson/Björn Ulvaeus/Lars Rudolfsson musical’s run in Gothenburg went on sale recently. Tickets for the performances which run from 28 October 2014 to 31 March 2015 recently went on sale (the show doesn’t run every night).

The Gothenburg Opera House is the venue, which is where Kristina had a run back in the nineties. The show will transfer from GöteborgsOperan to Stockholm’s Cirkus after it’s Gothenburg run.

Direct link for tickets

Benny Andersson attends Royal premiere of ‘Utvandrarna’ at Swedish National Theatre

Renowned director and choreographer Mats Ek, has collaborated with playwright and dramatist Irena Kraus, to create a brand new dramatisation of Wilhelm Moberg’s Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) and last Sunday, Benny Andersson sat alongside King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia for the show’s gala premiere at Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre (Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern or Dramaten).

Moberg’s critically acclaimed novel is one of Swedish literature’s true classics. The books are regarded as a cornerstone in the historiography of the great Swedish emigration in the 1800s and are even credited to have spawned the Swedish tourist industry.

There have been several previous adaptations of Moberg’s epic, including Jan Troell’s film version and perhaps most notably the Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Lars Rudolfsson musical, Kristina från Duvemåla, but now the novel has another dimension.

Rolf Lassgård & Stina Ekblad
Rolf Lassgård & Stina Ekblad

While Ek and Kraus have retained all the most popular highlights from previous interpretations, with many scenes being instantly recognisable from ‘Kristina’, their staging is quite original.

Lead roles are portrayed by actors several decades older than Moberg’s characters. Kristina, who according to the novel is just seventeen at the start of the story, is played by Stina Ekblad, 60 and her beau Karl-Oskar by 59 year old Rolf Lassgård. Even the children are played by adults.

The drama is told through both classic theatre combined with dance and movement – and a lot of music, supplied courtesy of Benny Andersson.

However, there are no songs from Kristina and Benny has written nothing new for the production. Instead a selection of his existing compositions, including tracks from his work with Orsa Spelmän, BAO and Palme, have been compiled to form the show’s folk-orientated score.

On stage, set designer and acclaimed photographer Aida Chehrehgosha, has created a simple backdrop consisting of two large LED screens, upon which images of the rocky fields, red wooden barns, stellar skies, rolling seas and slowly passing cows are displayed. Her intention: “To create a space for Mats Ek’s choreographic style, which also encourages the audience’s imagination.”

Utvandrarna was well received by Sunday’s theatre-goers. Led by Benny and the Royal couple, the audience gave the cast a long and rapturous standing ovation.

While critics are more divided, they are unanimous in their opinion that Rolf Lassgård’s debut on the national stage is an indisputable triumph.

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GöteborgsOperan ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ details

'Kristina från Duvemåla' will run for 99 performances in Gothenburg
‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ will run for 99 performances in Gothenburg

Tickets for the Gothenburg run of Kristina från Duvemåla become available on 31 March.

The Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Lars Rudolfsson musical premieres on 25 October 2014 and will run until 26 May 2015, during which 99 performances are scheduled.

The production is part of a two city run, starting in Gothenburg and then moving to Stockholm.

The most recent staging of ‘Kristina‘ opened at the Swedish National Theatre, Helsinki, in February 2012. Directed by Lars Rudolfsson, and starring Maria Ylipää as Kristina, Robert Noack as Karl Oskar, Birthe Wingren as Ulrika and Oskar Nilsson as Robert, the production achieved great success until it ended its run in May 2013.  It is this same cast of principals that will recreate their roles in Sweden’s two largest cities.

Related link:

GöteborgsOperan – Kristina från Duvemåla