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When gender equality rings false

Helsingborg Arena och Scen

In Sweden, gender advocacy has become both a key to success in the state-sponsored music world and an effective method for getting media attention. But who reaps the benefits when a relatively apolitical art form is confronted by an ideology that views art as a tool for societal change? Pianist and arts and culture writer Martin Malmgren examines the head of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Fredrik Österling, and his acclaimed mini-opera Makten och Härligheten (The Power and the Glory) about the Swedish Academy. Mr. Malmgren asks the question how a country can avoid a situation in which the prevailing zeitgeist is exploited for self-serving purposes.

Av Martin Malmgren | 15 maj 2020
Eventuella åsikter och slutsatser i texten är skribentens egna.
I korthet Stöd KvartalLästid 15 minSkärmläsarvänlig
I korthet

* The politicisation of the gender equality issue has created a lucrative niche within the art music world, where those who can point to injustices and offer solutions can expect abundant rewards.

* The author gives as an example the manager of Helsingborg Concert Hall and his recent mini-opera “The Power and the Glory”.

* Our efforts to transcend patriarchal structures are not helped by pretending that they never existed.

* It is very limiting to fixate on current trends when measuring the value of art.

* Striving for gender parity in historical repertoire can be compared to tearing down Rome to build a city with as many buildings by male and female architects.


It is a rare occurrence that a topical subject results in a new opera, but followers of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra in Southern Sweden have hardly been surprised by this development. The management’s desire for media friendly experimentation has resulted in headlines in recent years by, among other things, setting music to an anonymous homophobic hate letter, and insisting on a no-flight policy, which requires externally hired conductors and soloists to arrive by means of transport other than airplane. But when the mini-opera The Power and the Glory, which centers on the recent crisis in the Swedish Academy, attracted the attention of Swedish public television1 close to half a year before its March 19 premiere, several issues warranted reflection. What we were presented with on the television was a full rehearsal, with the choir, soloists, and orchestra all assembled, which in regular opera productions rarely happens until shortly before the premiere.

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