Nicolai Gedda
Nicolai Gedda As Atol In Vanessa
February 1, 1958

Nicolai Gedda's early idols were Gigli, Jussi Bj?rling, Richard Tauber and Helge Roswaenge. Gedda studied at Royal Academy of Music and the Opera School in Stockholm (he sang with Elisabeth S?derstr?m and Kerstin Meyer at this time). His talent was soon recognised and he was chosen, while still a student, to sing the title role of Adam's Le Postillon de Longjumeau, at the Swedish Royal Opera House, when no other singer could be found that could cope with its demands. A month after this debut, Walter Legge, head of what at that time was known as EMI -Columbia was in Stockholm and after auditioning Gedda, put him under contract saying, "In a few years time the whole music world will be talking about you."

The Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda (born July 11, 1925) is a famous opera singer and recitalist. What he lacks in Italianate tone and squillo, he amply compensates for in versatility, with more than sixty roles to his credit, ranging from Rameau to Shostakovich. Having made some two hundred recordings, Gedda is said to be the most widely-recorded tenor in history.

Gedda was born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and a Russian father, who sang bass in a Don Cossack choir and was cantor in a Russian Orthodox church; he grew up bilingual and learned English, German, Italian, and Latin. Gedda began his professional career as a bank teller in a local bank in Stockholm. One day a wealthy client overheard him speaking about his desire to sing professionally, and offered to pay for his tuition to study with Karl Martin Oehmann, a well known Wagnerian tenor from the 1920s who also discovered Jussi Bj?rling.

In 1952, at the age of 27, Gedda made his debut at the Royal Swedish Opera, performing the role of Chapelon in Adolphe Adam's Le Postillon di Langjumeau. In this same year he also performed the role of Nicklaus in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann and the tenor role in Der Rosenkavalier.

After an audition in Stockholm, he gained the attention of conductor Herbert von Karajan, who took him to Italy. In 1953, he made his d?but at La Scala as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. In 1954, he made his Paris Opera debut in the tenor role in Weber's Oberon, King of the Fairies, and was given a permanent contract for several years. In 1957, Gedda made his Metropolitan Opera d?but in the title role of Gounod's Faust, and went on to sing 28 roles there over the next 26 years, including the world premieres of Barber's Vanessa and Menotti's The Last Savage. Gedda made his Royal Opera House Covent Garden d?but in 1954 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi's Rigoletto and has since returned to sing Benvenuto Cellini, Alfredo, Gustavus III in Un Ballo in Maschera, Nemorino and Lensky.

In addition to his opera performances, Gedda cultivated an active parallel career as a recitalist, with a large repertoire of French, German, Scandinavian, and Russian artsongs.

A singer of unusual longevity, Gedda has been active well into his late 70s; in May 2001 he recorded the role of the Emperor Altoum in Puccini's Turandot and the role of the High Priest in Mozart's Idomeneo in June 2003.