PhD project

”Unchain the singer!” by Tove Dahlberg

Researcher: Tove Dahlberg

"Unchain the singer! Gender, Normativity and Artistic Agency in Opera" is a PhD project by Tove Dahlberg. Tove is an an opera singer and a PhD candidate in Opera.

Why is gender often performed in such a stereotypical way on the opera stage? Where is the awareness, the appetite for new discoveries and the courage to challenge obsolete structures? The opera is in need of contemporary transformation rather than focusing so much on preservation. In my doctorate project I am exploring how new tools, approaches and working models can contribute to this change. In my research project I conduct practice-based experiments centered around gender, normativity and artistic agency from the perspective of the opera singer.

Aim and research questions

Aim: to investigate how gender and normativity are reproduced on the opera stage, develop methods for transforming critical perspectives on gender and normativity into artistic practice, and explore strategies to increase the artistic agency of the singer. Questions: How do critical perspectives on gender and normativity transform into artistic practice of the singer? How can these perspectives expand the artistic agency of the singer?

Research implementation and anticipated impact

The research is carried out in workshops together with musicians, directors and other singers, with the aim to identify and challenge normativity of the opera practice. Through the research, tools and approaches for conscious artistic choices regarding gender and normativity of performance are developed. These, as well as the insights regarding the agency of the singer, will be presented both on stage and as a reflective written text. I hope that my research will contribute to a greater awareness and a widened register of performances on the opera stages and be of use for other practitioners.


I am collaborating with Kristina Hagström-Ståhl, researcher and director, Maria Löfberg, composer and Liv Elf Karlén, normativity coach and director.


Start and end year for the research2019-2022. 


Profile image: photographer Malin Tvedt