No men allowed in Sweden’s opera conservatories

No men allowed in Sweden’s opera conservatories


norman lebrecht

March 15, 2016

Our friend Elisabeth Braw has an extraordinary scoop on the Economist site. It appears that neither of Sweden’s opera colleges admitted a single tenor or bass applicant this year. Apparently, there are no men singers in Sweden worth teaching.

“Women have always been in the majority among our applicants, probably because Sweden has so many successful sopranos,” says Professor Anna Lindal, dean of the Stockholm University College of Opera, which along with the Gothenburg University College of Opera trains Sweden’s opera singers. “It’s rare that we get a bass, but this year was the first year that no tenor or bass passed the auditions.”

Read on here.


Ah, Jussi, where art thou now?


  • Jonathan Ellis says:

    Well… take them in and TEACH them to be good enough ?!?

    • Max Grimm says:

      There’s no need for that, as “[w]hen scores call for a tenor or bass, they simply transcribe the part up by an octave, which allows a soprano or mezzo-soprano to sing it”.

      • Bruce says:

        ^ to be fair, that quote is from the part of the article where they write about “a tiny opera company called Pop-up Opera, in which women make up the bulk of the cast. When scores call for a tenor or bass, they simply transcribe the part up by an octave, which allows a soprano or mezzo-soprano to sing it.”

        • Max Grimm says:

          I was being facetious. Although, I don’t think having a mezzo Wotan or Hunding would be quite the same. With all the capable singers around, I personally would rather seek out a tenor, bass-baritone or bass than transcribing parts up.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        I believe the point of a conservatoire is to teach good singers, not to put on operas. If, to teach better singers, they need to put on worse operas, then so be it.

        That being said, I wouldn’t want to be the soprano who got the opportunity to add the role of Alfredo Germont to my repertoire…

  • Malcolm James says:

    Can you imagine the reaction if these some conservatoires claimed not to be able to find a single female conducting applicant who was good enough to accept? In one sense the above situation is worse, because on a purely practical level the gender of the conductor does not matter, but female singers are not interchangeable with male singers.

    • Bruce says:

      It will be interesting to see if the trend continues. If it does, they will face plenty of criticism — either for not accepting enough males, or for accepting bad ones.

  • John McMurray says:

    It’s not exactly a scoop when John Daszak pointed it out on this site a week ago!!!

  • John Daszak says:

    Although very alarming and Newsworthy…it’s not much of a “scoop”. This was news over a week ago…
    7th March

    • Bruce says:

      I was just going to say: someone posted a comment about this last week. I looked it up, and it was you 🙂

  • Peter says:

    If people stop singing, that’s the end of music.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Commentary by Anna Lindal, Operahögskolan’s chief, to the Swedish television ( ”I’m disappointed, of course, but we can not set quotas. We must go for quality, and we do. We have a very high quality of our applicants. (…) last year and the year before we took a majority of guys. In the current situation, the gender distribution is equal between the students of the Operahögskolan in Stockholm.”

  • Una says:

    Perhaps they also need to look at the singing teachers and how they teach for if out of all those men who applied, there wasn’t one or two that, with some decent teaching, didn’t show some potential, then there is something wrong, and the men can’t all be bad singers – or not good enough. Sopranos are always two a penny as a vocal category, but there has to be a balance of voices, even if you only take into consideration casting the college opera!

    There is also the added facet that the really good ones didn’t actually apply!

    • Carlos Montané says:

      I may be the most experient in this report, as I sang for 40 + years and being teaching voice/opera for 30 at the largest music school in the US (and possible in the world).
      There are 15 to 20 sopranos for each male singer applying at music schools/conservatories. With good/excellent potencials: 20 females to 1 male. Music institutions that offer opera productions, many times have to cast a male singer in more than one production, while female singers -very rare- get to do 2 roles in one year. Now, that they can’t find a good male voice in Sweden; not possible. I’m sure many tenors. baritones and basses will love to be in those schools in Sweden, surrounded by those beautiful females; at least I will if I were 60 years younger.