#Metoo: 653 Swedish opera singers say they were sexually harassed

#Metoo: 653 Swedish opera singers say they were sexually harassed


norman lebrecht

November 14, 2017

A statement signed by 653 female opera singers in Sweden maintains that they suffered harassment and sexual misconduct by powerful men in the classic music industry.

The offences range from verbal aggression to attempted rape.

The signatories include Anna Larsson , Katarina Dalayman, Erika Sunnegårdh, Miah Persson (pictured), Iréne Theorin, Elin Rombo, Katija Dragojevic, Ida Falk Winland, Kerstin Avemo and Lena Nordin. Swedish Radio is preparing to broadcast a program that will name two prominent teachers at the Royal Academy of Music as persistent offenders.

All information, so far, has been in Swedish.





  • Ungeheuer says:

    The cat is out of the bag. Good. Only a matter of time before more revelations arise elsewhere and everywhere. Cannot be too soon.

  • Hojotoho says:

    Very brave…top of the Iceberg….

  • Abscheulicher says:

    Let us hope that the silence surrounding the offenders end here. And do not forget the enablers (ie managing director, agents et cet) who seem to regard the humiliation of women a small price to pay for having “big names” gracing their artistic rosters. The predatory natures of many a conductor, director, teacher et cet are well known official secrets.

  • Thomasina says:

    And men? We must also consider the male victims (I know well that they tend to hesitate to expose the secrets).

  • Sanity says:

    These women are to be commended for coming forward. Let’s hope that similar opportunities are to be given to those in other countries.

    Those outside opera simply cannot comprehend how endemic this is in the industry.

    There are some very VERY big names involved.

  • Hojotoho says:

    In the opera word this concerns many men too!

  • John Darcy says:

    I keeping wondering when someone will speak out about a certain opera maestro…

    • John Borstlap says:

      What about Handel who kept an unwilling soprano hanging out of the window untill she complied to his wishes? But then, it is too long ago.

      The Scottish soprano Mary Garden conducted a love affair with the director of the Opéra Comique which provided her the start of her big career – also singing in the première of Pelléas in 1902, after Debussy had promised first the role to the mistress of Maeterlinck, the author of the play upon which the opera is based. It seems that this was postulated by Maeterlinck as a condition to give his permission to use the play. When the Opéra Comique took Garden, Maeterlinck was so enraged that he called on Debussy, entered his home and threatened him with his walking stick upon which the composer fainted. By the time of the première M exercised a press campaigne to have the work flopped, but eventually Pelléas turned out to be a success. It appears that all these entanglements proved for ‘the best’ because Garden was perfect for the role of Mélisande, seducing with her innocent beauty and big eyes the men around her, including old white-haired Arkel.

      Another example of curious proportions is the entanglement of the dancer Nijinsky with impresario of the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev, who made Nijinsky into a big international star and provided the artistic inspirational environment where the young man could grow and develop into an experimental choreographer. Reading the story gives a quite distasteful feeling, with the exploitation on both sides. But when Nijinsky unexpectedly married, he was kicked-out of the company without payment that was his due, and the sudden loss of that artistic environment triggered his mental breakdown from which he never recovered. And afterwards, the Ballets Russes never attained the level of sensational interest it had with its first years, including the first 3 Stravinsky ballets, Debussy’s Jeux and Ravel’s Daphnis.

      In other words: how to define who is taking the initiative in such entanglements and with which intentions? And who is taking advantage of whom and why? No doubt women in dependent positions are often victim, but always, in every situation? It seems very difficult to draw the lines and to evaluate evidence.

      • Adam Williams says:

        It is not at all ‘difficult to draw the line’ when there is a clear inequality of power between the harasser and the harrassed. This is usually reinforced by overt statements by harassers that complainants will not be believed, work will be withheld, stories spread that a complainant is ‘difficult’ and institutions will protect the harrasser. All of these singers know that this actually happens in industry – they routinely tell one another about it. It might be difficult for you to draw the line with a bunch of hokey anecdotes, but in the modern world where (mostly female) singers are human beings with the right to make a living in safety and opera houses are workplaces that are regulated spaces, the ‘lines’ of acceptable conduct are incredibly clear, even in an artistic setting. The harassers are conscious, deliberate transgressors of these standards.

        I’m looking forward to the prosecutions of these offenders that will inevitably follow, that should draw a few ‘lines’.

      • sue says:

        I’ve just read the most recent edition of the UK “Spectator” magazine which describes the incidences of various females actively pursuing powerful men – either because “power is an aphrodisiac’ (who said that? don’t tell me this has happened before!!) or they found a way to get a career quickly. Either way, it certainly does happen all the time. So, let’s not put all the blame on men (though it is extremely fashionable, I know).

    • Cyril Blair says:

      Leaves me wondering if there are some offenders who are just untouchable.

    • sue says:

      Tell!!! I won’t tell anyone.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    I don’t mean to be flippant, but am slightly surprised that there are that many opera singers in a country of 8 million.

  • harold braun says:


  • Anon says:

    I‘m wondering where exactly the line is to be drawn between a sexually connotated verbal innuendo or ‚move‘, and actual harassment. What are your definitions?
    How do people these days establish first physical contact? First kisses?
    Only with a witness present and a written agreement of consent signed before?