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Ilon Wikland’s Escape Story Turned Into Children’s Opera

The Long, Long Journey (Den långa, långa resan) written by Swedish children’s author Rose Lagercrantz and illustrated by famous Estonian-born Swedish illustrator Ilon Wikland, was recently turned into an eponymous children’s opera at the Royal Swedish Opera.

Both the book and the opera tell the story of Wikland’s childhood in the Western Estonian coastal town of Haapsalu and her escape to Sweden in 1944, reported the Financial Times.

The opera, produced by Ellen Lamm, features music by film composer Johan Ramström and text by librettist Sigrid Herrault and will star young opera singer Sanna Gibbs in the leading role. The work is aimed at children 7-9 years of age.

While a play based on the book has been previouly written and staged at Uppsala City Theatre, according to Anna Karinsdotter, director of the Royal Swedish Opera’s children’s and youth department Young at the Opera, the opera was not based on the play. It was the idea of Young at the Opera dramaturg Sigrid Herrault, herself an Estonian, to bring an opera based on the book to the stage, reported regional paper Lääne Elu (link in Estonian).

For more English-language information about the opera and its schedule of performances, click here.

Wikland, born Maire-Ilon Pääbo in Tartu in 1930, is one of Sweden’s best known illustrators, known in particular for her illustrations of children’s author Astrid Lindgren’s books.