Kristina från Duvemåla ("Kristina from Duvemåla") is a Swedish musical written by former ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus (lyrics) and Benny Andersson (music), based on a series of four novels by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg detailing a family's poverty-driven migration from Sweden to America in the mid-19th century: The Emigrants, Unto a Good Land, The Settlers and The Last Letter Home
The show premiered at the Malmö Opera and Music Theatre in Malmö, Sweden, on October 7th, 1995 and received a rapturous welcome. The audience gave it a 10-minute standing ovation, while the critics unanimously praised it . Martin Nystrom of Dagens Nyheter wrote that Andersson and Ulvaeus "created a great Swedish musical that thematically touches on the great questions of our time" and compared Andersson's musicality with that of Schubert; while Svenska Dagbladet's Carl-Gunnar Ahlen concluded that Bjorn Ulvaeus "succeeded in presenting the drama without getting bogged down, despite its almost Wagnerian length"
Subsequently, the musical was staged at Gothenburg Opera and then premiered at the Stockholms's Cirkus that was specially renovated for it. This production won four 1998 Guldmasken Theatre Awards (Swedish equivalent of Tony Award). Counting all three runs, which were almost continuous, interrupted only by summer vacations and hiatuses due to the production's physical moving, Kristina från Duvemåla ran for nearly four years (more than 650 performances in total), making it the second longest running musical in Swedish history. In 2001, a touring concert staging was presented featuring most of the original performers recreating their previous roles. All three original Swedish productions were directed by Lars Rudolfsson with set design by Tony Award-winner Robin Wagner and musical direction by Anders Eljas.
The Original Cast triple CD set was released in 1996 and peaked at No.2 on the Swedish album chart, remaining on it for a total of 74 weeks and winning 1996 Swedish Grammis Award as the Best Album. For a number of years, a song from the musical "Guldet blev till sand" (The gold turned into sand) performed by Peter Jöback held the distinction of having spent the longest amount of time on the national Swedish radio chart
By mid-2000s, the show has been translated into English by Björn Ulvaeus and the famed Les Misérables translator Herbert Kretzmer. English translations of individual songs have been presented at various concert performances throughout the last two or three years, mainly by Helen Sjöholm or Swedish musical theatre stalwart Tommy Körberg, always in association with Benny Andersson or Björn Ulvaeus.
In The USA
On October 12, 1996, the 90-minute (of nearly four-hour score) concert version with the original cast was presented, in Swedish, in Minneapolis, Minnesota as an opening event of Plymouth Music Series 1996-1997 season in Orchestra Hall; and next day in Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom, Minnesota – area where much of the events in Moberg's books took place and where the statue of the books' two main characters stand on the Main Street of the town. The American premiere received a glowing review from Minneapolis Star and Tribune : "I have seen the future of the music theater, and its name is Kristina...Engaging, emotionally charged – and at times haunting – piece of work capable of enchanting US viewers even when performed in a cut-down, concert version and in a tongue foreign to the audience"; while Helen Sjöholm who performed the role of Kristina was described as "extraordinary"
In the UK
The UK premiere of the musical, also in a concert version, took place at the Royal Albert Hall on 14 April 2010.
to the US, it received a mixed critical response. "The inspiration for both score and lyrics feels more like a retread of the worst excesses of Les Miserables (a fact amplified here by sharing the English lyricist of that show, Herbert Kretzmer) and Frank Wildhorn, with the occasional Lloyd Webber rock riff thrown in for good measure", wrote The Stage , while The Times concluded that "if it showed gleams of promise, this concert also emphasised that Kristina still has a long road to travel before any of us is truly moved to say thank you for the music" Similar
Contrary to these opinions, chief classical music and opera critic for the Independent Edward Seckerson wrote a highly sympathetic review of the performance, calling Benny Andersson "a composer/melodist of startling distinction". He suggested that "this one-off concert performance...presented only its bare bones, a series of musical snapshots from a much larger whole...So dramatically sketchy, musically sumptuous. But Andersson's gorgeous folk-sourced melodies (like a Swedish Grieg) spirited us forward from one accordian-flecked knees-up and effusive ballad to the next...If ever a piece sung a nation's pride, this is it.
Kristina Från Duvemåla