Based on ‘Utvandrarna’ (‘The Emigrants’) by Vilhelm Moberg.
By the time Benny and Björn sat down to write ‘Kristina’, they had already had a taste of what musical theatre was all about and indeed, what it in some ways wasn’t about, in the form of their musical written with Sir Tim Rice, namely CHESS.
Although CHESS was acclaimed by some, mostly for its breathtaking score, the show itself refused to become the worldwide hit that had been proclaimed a distinct possibility before it opened. Certain strides were taken to ensure that ‘Kristina’ didn’t fall foul of the same criticisms i.e. that the story was convoluted and muddled and the characters not likeable or identifiable enough. Plus as Björn puts it, in his own words, “We wanted to base it on something that was real”.
So, he and Benny turned to Vilhelm Moberg’s classic series of dramatic Swedish novels ‘Utvandrarna’ (‘The Emigrants’). A masterpiece on show Bringing such a mammoth series of novels to the stage was a long and sometimes tortuous affair and the writing of it took considerably longer than CHESS. Nevertheless, eventually ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ emerged to a waiting world and premiered in Malmö, Sweden on October 7th, 1995.
- Music: Benny Andersson
- Text: Björn Ulvaeus
- Director: Lars Rudolfsson
- Orchestrations & arrangements: Anders Eljas
- Principals: Helen Sjöholm (Kristina), Anders Ekborg (Karl Oskar), Åsa Bergh (Ulrika), Peter Jöback (Robert), Fina-Kajsa (Marianne Mörck)
Malmö, Göteborg and Stockholm
Critics immediately and unanimously proclaimed the show ‘a masterpiece’ – although some did display reservations about the extraordinary length of the show (coming in at not much under 4 hours).
This incredibly positive reaction came as something of a relief to Björn who, just in case the critics were savage, had booked himself a flight out of the country on the morning after the premiere but didn’t need to take it. ‘Kristina’ as it has become known, transferred from Malmö to Göteborg on the 13th April 1996 and from there, headed to a specially enlarged Cirkus (Theatre) in Stockholm. The musical opened in Stockholm on 14 February, 1998 and closed on 19 June, 1999. In all, it is reported than in a country of just over 9 million inhabitants, more than 1 million saw Kristina during its performances in Malmö, Göteborg and Stockholm.
1996 Minnesota concerts
During some ‘off-air’ time during the Swedish run (when the show was changing cities), Kristina was presented in concert form in Minnesota to gauge the reaction of Americans to the musical, particularly one would assume from the location of the concerts, Swedish Americans! On October 12th and 13th 1996, the Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, and the Chisago Lakes High School, Lindstrom played host to the original performers, a large orchestra, Benny and Björn and a TV crew from Sweden. Minneapolis Star Tribune: On witnessing the Minnesota concerts, this is what a reviewer from local newspaper the Star Tribune had to say: “I have seen the future of music theater and its name is ‘Kristina’…an engaging, emotionally charged – and at times haunting – piece of work…a seamless web of Swedish folk music, rock idioms and classical resonances …mature and theaterwise.”
Swedish Concert Tour
Following the end of the Stockholm run, a concert tour in 2001 was organsied, featuring all the original principals and taking in the following Swedish venues: Evedal, Växjö, 6th June Sofiero Slott, Helsingborg, 8th June Mölleplatsen, Malmö, 9th June Trädgårdsföreningen, Göteborg, 10th June Trädgårdsföreningen, Göteborg, 11th June Slottet, Finspång, 13th June Stockholm Stadion, Stockholm, 14th June Sammilsdal, Leksand, 16th June Merlo Slott, Sundsvall, 17th June
Following a 4 week workshop in New York during March 2006, Kristina (in English) seemed as if it was finally Broadway bound. However, events intervened and due largely to a protracted legal battle which Benny and Björn finally settled in March 2008, the show’s progress stalled.
America 2009 and London 2010
On September 23 and 24 Kristina was performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, with principals Helen Sjöholm (as Kristina), Russell Watson (as Karl Oscar), Louise Pitre (as Ulrika) and Kevin Odekirk (as Robert). The show was recorded for release on CD in April 2010.
The New York cast is lined up to perform Kristina again, this time at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 14 April 2010.
Helsinki, Finland – opens February 29, 2012
Svenska Teatern will be presenting Kristina från Duvemåla in Helsinki next year, opening on February 29. The principals were announced on 17 February 2011. Benny and Björn were fully involved in the audition process. Lars Rudolfsson will direct. It is very much hoped that this production will see the show exported to various Eastern European states.
You can catch up on all the latest news about Kristina’s move to Finland on the Kristina news page.
The CD of the show, when it emerged, was a 3CD Box Set entitled Kristina från Duvemåla – Den Kompletta Utgåvan which purports to be the complete score. In fact, there are a few short pieces of incidental music that are not included. However, to balance things slightly, it should be noted that there is a song (Kamfer Och Lavendel) on the CD set which was dropped from later performances of the show. The box set comes with a booklet containing all the lyrics and quite a few pictures from the original production. In addition to the 3-CD set is a ‘Highlights’ package on one CD, called 16 Favoriter featuring 16 selections from the 3CD Box Set, including the single release version of ‘Guldet blev till sand’ which differs slightly from the box set version.
Songs from the 3CD Set:
- Duvemåla Hage
- Min Lust Till Dej
- Ut Mot Ett Hav
- Lilla Skara
- Aldrig Kom Till Mig Alla
- Vi Öppnar Alla Grindar
- Bönder På Havet
- Begravning Till Sjöss
- Sunday in Battery Park
- Hemma – also released as a single
- Från New York Till Stillwater
- Tänk Att Män Som Han Kan Finnas
- Kamfer Och Lavendel
- Drömmen Om Guld
- Min Astrakan
- Ljusa Kvällar Om Våren
- Präriens Drottning – also released as a single
- Vildgräs – also released as a single
- Jag Har Förlikat Mej Till Slut
- Guldet Blev Till Sand – also released as a single
- Wild Cat Money
- Ut Mot Ett Hav
- Vill du Inte Gifta Dej Med Mej
- Ett Herrans Underverk
- Down to the Sacred Wave
- Du Måste Finnas – also released as a single
- Här Har du Mej Igen
- Red Iron/Hjälp Mej Trösta
- Var Hör Vi Hemma
- I Gott Bevar
The foreword to the story by Vilhelm Moberg:
This is a story about some people, whom from their home in Ljuder in Småland, Sweden, emigrated to North America. They were the first in their district who emigrated.
They came from the land of small cottages and big families. They were the people of the soil and they came from families who had for thousands of years cultivated the land they left. Through all changes the farm stayed as the home of the family. Everything they needed was taken from the earth. The people depended on the Lord’s weather, which gave them good years and bad years. They didn’t depend on anyone or any other power under the sun. Their lives moved on slowly as the years went by. And it stayed that way for a long time, through many generations and centuries.
But in the middle of the 19th century everything was ripped apart. Newly discovered powers were used, wagons could be driven without horses and ships could sail without sails. The different parts of the world got closer to each other. And to new people who knew about the written word came the news of a free country far away. It stepped forward from the mist of the fairy-tale and became reality. The new country had land without farmers and called for farmers without land. It opened itself for those who waited for a freedom that they did not have in their home districts.
And in every district were there a few men and women who followed the advice and emigrated to the New World. It was the bravest who moved first over the big sea. Those who stayed, the sluggish and thoughtful, called them adventurers. The first emigrants didn’t know much about the new country that awaited them. And how could they know that more than a million people from their home-country would follow them.
They could not know that a cultivated country, bigger than their old country, would be the fruit of the mission they began as a dangerous adventure – under the sky of uncertainty, in “the boldness sign”(a comet in the night sky – portent of sweeping change and danger for this superstitious folk). The men and women, that this story is about, have long since left this life.
Some of their names can still be read on old gravestones thousands of miles from the place where they were born into this world. Their names are forgotten in their home districts and their adventure shall soon be a part of story and legend.