Breaking: Swedish opera star resigns over sex claims

Breaking: Swedish opera star resigns over sex claims


norman lebrecht

April 29, 2018

The international baritone Håkan Hagegård has resigned from the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm following allegations of sexual harassment.

Hagegård, 72, strongly denies the claims.

A radio documentary on Swedish classical music channel P2 last November titled ‘Don Juan at the music conservatory’ alleged widespread misconduct at Stockholm institutions without naming alleged perpetrators. No charges have been brought.

Unfounded allegations in Swedish media of bullying and discrimination led to the tragic death last month of Anne Sofie Von Otter’s husband, Benny Fredriksson.

Hagegård has made no comment. The Royal Music Academy issued a statement: ‘The Board of the Musical Academy welcomes Hagegård’s decision.’



  • Caravaggio says:

    Sad and shocking to read this. He was a wonderful singer. He was once married to Barbara Bonney, no? I had the pleasure of meeting him and thought of him as a charming individual.

  • David Montague Rendall says:

    I have known, admired and performed with Håkan for over thirty years. I cannot believe these insinuations and accusations against him. He is and was a truly great artist and a dear friend. My support is with you Håkan at this most terrible time.

    • Sue says:

      I’ve always really liked this singer and wondered where he’d gone!! I remember a performance very well of “Don Giovanni” from, I think it was, Drotningholm. Years ago. But he was superb – and such eye candy!!

      • david Hilton says:

        He was also charming, and the only internationally known star, in Ingmar Bergman’s famous ‘Die Zauberflote’ film.

    • Alex Davies says:

      First, he may well be proven to be innocent of these allegations. I know nothing of the case, so could not possibly comment.

      However, what I would say is that, sadly, almost everybody who does commit offences of this kind is somebody’s dear friend and is somebody whom people know and work with and admire. Almost every time, there are people who say that they cannot believe the allegations. Sometimes, those feelings are proven to be well founded. For example, based partly on personal knowledge and partly on what I had read and heard over the years, I suspected that the allegations against Edward Heath would be proven to be untrue, as, indeed, they have been (or so it seems). On the other hand, I think we were all astonished when the allegations about Rolf Harris turned out to be true. Only rarely is somebody accused and people say that they think that he did actually do the crime alleged. The two that come to mind are Mike Brewer and Philip Pickett. I’ve had the misfortune of crossing paths with them and was not remotely surprised to find out that they were even worse than I’d suspected. But these are the exceptions. Most people who do this sort of thing are well liked by friends and colleagues, and nobody can believe that they could have done anything like it.

  • Barbara Eichner says:

    Please amend the headline. This is not about “sex”, this is about harassment.

  • David Ricart says:

    My voice teacher told me before Thanksgiving, these allegations will spread to the opera world. It didn’t take long.

  • Peter1589 says:

    WHAT??? SEX IN OPERA???? Surely you jest. Or at a MUSIC SCHOOL??? Unheard of. What other outrage of the natural order shall we suffer in these days of LGTB tyranny?

  • L says:

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid these allegations are true, from personal experience. I worked with him at a well-known summer program (which will remain anonymous for the sake of not tarnishing this amazing program’s reputation). Of course, when I first met him, he was very kind, charming and like a teddy-bear. He helped many of us tremendously with our artistry and technique, in which I have learned a lot from. I did this program 2 years in a row from 2016-2017. It wasn’t until about a year later I realized what he had done.

    Many friendships since the end of the program have remained intact and I had many new friends in the opera world. We would get together frequently and reminisce about all the fun times we had. This past summer of 2018, one of my friends and I from the program decided to meet up with our other friend from the first year we did the program since she was visiting. We caught up on everything and talked a lot about such a memorable time. When we mentioned Hakan’s name, we all kind of got awkwardly quiet and tense. We had adored this man, but some of the things he would talk about were very promiscuous. Now I understand opera can be risque, but he made many comments out of context when casually talking to us that seemed fairly sexual. We figured maybe he’s just more forward about things or was just trying to be funny since we established good relationships with him. But my friend said they were sitting on a bench and talked a lot about sexual things and references and kept asking her if she had a boyfriend and then got uncomfortably close sitting next to her. She figured he was just being nice cause after all, he bought her some gelato. But she felt something off about it and felt it was inappropriate.

    She had brought this up during the program and we were all a bit taken back, but again, none of us thought much about it. But when we got together this past time in New York, she brought it up again in details and we had a serious discussion of concern and confusion. So I decided to share my story and experience. Back in October of 2017, I was visiting a different friend from my 2nd year at the program and later that evening, we planned to get dinner with Hakan to chat and catch up on our careers. I felt this would be nice and made great opportunities for connections, and since he happened to be around, we figured why not. It is still a little fuzzy if my friend got up to go to the bathroom or not, but I was sitting next to Hakan while my friend was sitting on the opposite side of the table. We were just chatting and all of a sudden he lays his hand on the inside of my thigh and it seemed to be what felt like a caress that steered close to other private areas of my body. I was wearing jeans, so it would be hard to get further up me, but I got this weird, uncomfortable, tingly sensation and instantly felt something was not right, but I chose to brush it off and figured maybe he was more touchy feely. At first I perceived it just as a friendly pat on the leg, but his hand was there for a while, so I considered it borderline inappropriate contact, on the verge of groping. Even when I greeted him, he always gave hugs, which of course is the part I don’t mind since I love hugs and a kiss on the cheek. Fairly normal when you greet people, but again, it felt like it lasted longer than it should have for a friendly manner. He was heavily breathing as he slowly kissed my cheek and didn’t appear to be a quick peck from what I remember.

    Then my friend from 2016 shared her horrifying encounterment. We were in Italy and he messaged my friend asking if she would like to come over for a cup of tea. She figured it would be okay because they established a good relationship to where she would have felt comfortable with this. He wanted to discuss her career and she figured it would be in her best interest to do so. When she got there, that’s when Hakan took her out on the balcony and began performing sexual acts on her. He stuck his tongue down her throat, unhooked her bra, tried taking all her clothes off and took her hand and placed it on his penis. She said that she should probably get going and soon left. I know, hard to believe anyone would do this, but trust me, it happens and the way she described it was horrifying and graphic. We knew we had to do something.

    We sent a formal email to the director of the program explaining what happened and he immediately took action and even apologized. We knew it was not his fault or anyone’s, as they would’ve had no idea about it and would never put us in danger. They removed him from the faculty of the program and thanked us for being brave to have the courage to speak up and share are stories. We didn’t want this to define this beloved, life-changing program and wanted to make sure other people wouldn’t go through this. There were many different levels of sexual harassment, as well as assault and abuse, but we each have a valid story to share in hopes of creating a better environment, especially in the opera field and knowing that this does not need to happen in order to make your dreams come true. Please please please believe me when you read this. All of these are true stories, not fabricated and the real deal. We would never think of making this up and from our perspectives, we want to advocate. It’s truly a shame, but we felt ashamed of ourselves and no one should go through that. So sad because he was just a family man, and someone we thought we could trust. We can no longer apologize. Even many of my other friends said he would talk very sensually about specific topics and invited us individually to “talk about our careers” at his apartment, alone. We honestly didn’t know. It was so manipulative and trust has been broken. I hope you all understand where this is coming from and that peace will be found. Thank you for reading and listening.