I first saw Maria Ylipää as Evita in 2006 and back then I couldn't stand her singing. As Elphaba in Wicked in 2011 she was already better, but by Kristina she had turned into a musical star of international quality. The intensity of her acting was incredible, and while Helen Sjöholm remains one of my favourite female voices on this earth, Ylipää's singing didn't make me miss Sjöholm. She had suddenly stopped shouting nasally and started to actually sing. Last week I saw Birthe Wingren as Bagheera in The Jungle Book, and kick-ass lady roles like that and Ulrika seem to suit her perfectly. I also adore her voice.
It irritates me a bit that Lars Rudolfsson will direct this production, too. While his directing in Helsinki was decent, it included too much standing in row and singing facing the audience. Generally I'd always like to see a new take into the material. My main problem with Kristina is that I couldn't relate to any of the characters or the themes of the story. In fact, the whole "I want to have sex with my husband and if it's God's will that I die of pregnancy then let it be so because I only live for God and my husband" theme somewhat makes me cringe, though I understand it's the product of its time. The musical storyline could also do with some cuts. I feel it's more a show picturing Vilhelm Moberg's novels than a musical on its own, and the writers have been afraid to leave any details out because in Sweden everyone apparently knows the source material.
The only character that really made me interested in their story was Fina-Kajsa, an elderly woman who at the first sight was going to her son in the US but later turned out to fuss about the same vague letter from the son over and over again. It hinted that this was in fact the only letter she had received and something had happened to the son, and she didn't want to admit it or was demented enough to not realize it. Somehow the whole musical's theme of running after ideals and phantoms was perfectly displayed in her character – and ironically, after two scenes the story forgets about her and we never learn if her son really had spoken the truth and was alive.
The music is very beautiful, though. It took a while to grow on me, and though I still feel it lacks certain musical-ism that would characterize the characters, its dramatic songs like Aldrig, Min astrakan and Du måste finnas are worth some goosebumps. B&B also master the art of choir scene composing extremely well.