Kristina Från Duvemåla moves to Helsinki
Abba men’s immigrant musical back on stage
By Pirkko Kotirinta
A jealously-guarded and long prepared secret was revealed on Wednesday: Svenska Teatern, Helsinki’s Swedish theatre, is to open its doors after a renovation with the musical Kristina Från Duvemåla in February of 2012.
The news was kept tightly under wraps as the musical has been written by former ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus (lyrics) and Benny Andersson (music).
After a press conference, the Abba veterans were available for a speedy ten-minute interview.
The Swedish team then left for a private jet waiting at the airport, only three hours after the contract with Svenska Teatern had been signed.
The show was premiered in Gothenburg in 1995, and it is based on Swedish author Wilhelm Moberg’s The Emigrants tetralogy, written between 1949 and 1959 and depicting a family’s migration from Småland in Sweden to Minnesota in the United States in the 19th century.
Links with the events and fates described in Moberg’s story can be found in practically any country you care to name, says the team behind the musical.
The performance of Kristina in Helsinki in February of 2012 will be the first staging of the costume musical outside Sweden.
The performance of the original version lasted for three and a half hours.
The new version will be more concise. Moreover, the orchestra will comprise 25 musicians, while the number of musicians in the original version was almost double this.
In September of 2009, a concert version of the work in English was performed in Carnegie Hall in New York, under the name Kristina.
There have also been plans to make a version for Broadway:
”We have held workshops in New York with a view to a Broadway production”, reported Benny Andersson in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat.
”Their conditions are very tight. For example the performance has to end by 11.00 p.m. in order that the staff are not entitled to any extra pay”, Andersson added.
As things stand, no Broadway version is in the pipeline.
However, the trip to America did show that Kristina Från Duvemåla can be shortened to two and a half hours ”without it feeling painful”, as Andersson and Ulvaeus put it.
”As a matter of fact, compressing the musical will be nice work”, the two men anticipated.
Their vision of the piece will get brighter and more concise over time, they believe.
The most recent performances of the full musical at Circus Stockholm took place fully ten years ago. Andersson and Ulvaeus intend to be present and active when the musical is being worked on in Helsinki.
Andersson said that he had read Moberg’s epic for the first time when he was in his twenties.
It was his own idea to convert the work into a musical, which is why he felt a closer intimacy with this musical than he did with Chess, the first musical he made with Ulvaeus at the end of the 1980s.
Chess was made on the initiative of Tim Rice.
No new joint composition is under way, the gentlemen claim, wide-eyed at the thought that it might be otherwise.
Then there is a clarification: well, at least nothing related to ABBA, they offer, ”even though Universal Pictures might be hoping for a sequel to the movie Mamma Mia!”.
The film, itself an adaptation of the musical of the same name, and starring Meryl Streep, has become the highest-grossing movie musical of all time, so it is hardly surprising Universal might want more.
After a little beating about the bush, it turns out that discussions on some new projects are constantly going on.
The two gentlemen are united not only by music but also by a lovely phase of life as grandfathers.
The best thing in life just now is the same for both of them: ”Grandchildren!”
Benny Andersson has five grandchildren, while Björn Ulvaeus has three and another is on the way.
”There has been some loose talk of doing something for children”, the greying Abba men smile impishly.
Benny leans back and digs out a shot of snus from a box to put under his lip.
The line outside is getting shorter - no more than a couple interviewers are left waiting for their ten minutes in the company of the two visitors.
BACKGROUND: Svenska Teatern aims at exports of musicals
The musical Kristina Från Duvemåla will be the most expensive production ever put on at Helsinki’s Swedish theatre.
Svenska Teatern will answer for the production, with the artistic management coming from Sweden. The director is Lars Rudolffsson, who also directed the first performance of the musical, while the musical direction is in the hands of Anders Eljas.
Eljas has cooperated with Abba since its famous Australian tour in 1977. The musical will be staged by Robin Wagner, who also staged Chess, which ran in London for three years.
Johan Storgård, the director of Svenska Teatern, began the negotiations on cooperation with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus five years ago.
Eventually they reached an understanding that encouraged Svenska Teatern to set up a consulting company named Ace-Production, which they intend to use in the future to export both their own performances and Kristina Från Duvemåla.
The theatre has a contract on the sales of the foreign-language performances of Kristina, namely in Finnish in Finland, and in Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the native languages of these countries.
Furthermore, a contract has been signed with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center on performing Svenska Teatern’s musical Spin in Shanghai. The premiere is scheduled for May 2010.
A musical version of author Tove Jansson’s novel Moominpappa at Sea, will also be exported to China.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 10.12.2009
Previously in HS International Edition:
Get out the curling tongs and blow-dryers - Abba are back in town! (18.5.2007)
Kristina Från Duvemåla (Wikipedia)
Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus news site
A site about Kristina från Duvemåla
PIRKKO KOTIRINTA / Helsingin Sanomat