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Swedish singers hit out at ‘culture of sexual harassment’

Sweden's classical music world has been hit with allegations of widespread sexual misconduct, after 653 opera singers said they have been verbally or physically assaulted

By Jon Chapple on 15 Nov 2017

Royal Swedish Academy of Music (KMA), Stockholm, Sweden

The KMA building in Stockholm

image © Alexandru Baboş Albabos

The entertainment business in Sweden – only last month named the country with the highest level of gender equality in Europe – has in the past week been rocked by hundreds of allegations of sexual misconduct. The latest concern the classical music business, where more than 600 female opera singers have claimed there is a “culture of silence” that leads to the covering up of inappropriate behaviour by male singers, conductors and opera directors.

Using the hashtag #visjungerut (‘we sing out’), the 653 singers have put their name to a statement saying they have suffered harassment and/or sexual misconduct – ranging from verbal aggression to attempted rape – by powerful men in the classical music industry.

The letter, signed by stars including Anna Larsson, Erika Sunnegårdh, Miah Persson, Ida Falk Winland, Iréne Theorin and Lena Nordin, follows a similar statement last week by 702 actresses, who detailed the culture of sexual harassment that also allegedly exists in Swedish film and theatre.

The opera singers criticise a culture where “harassment by men is […] excused and eliminated”, reports local tabloid Aftonbladet, with several of the signatories also sharing their experiences in a Facebook group. In a typical example, one writes: “I am at opera school. [My teacher] is an established singer and has just been made a director of the school. We sang together at a concert and, when we’d finished, he slipped his hand inside my skirt…”

“A culture of silence is widespread even in the opera world”

Another says a guest teacher at her music school angrily told her she should stop “looking so damn sexy” if she wasn’t prepared to sleep with him, after she spurned his advances. “He was sixty years old,” she writes.

According to local reports, Radio Sweden is preparing to a broadcast a programme that will expose two teachers at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music (KMA) as “persistent offenders”.

The letter concludes by demanding the alleged perpetrators are “no longer protected”, and that other senior executives “take responsibility” for weeding out inappropriate behaviour.

IQ revealed last month that many women working in the live music industry have similarly been subject to inappropriate behaviour from male counterparts, with most agreeing on the need to create a culture when women aren’t scared to speak out against the perpetrators of abuse.


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