Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Nicolai Gedda (11 July 1925 – 8 January 2017)

11:47, 10th February 2017

The Swedish tenor has died aged 91.

Gedda’s operatic career lasted more than 50 years, during which time he made more than 200 recordings and collaborated with artists included Maria Callas, Georges Prêtre, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Jessye Norman.

Born in Stockholm, Gedda studied with Carl Martin Öhman, mentor of Jussi Björling, and at Stockholm Conservatory before making his debut at the Swedish Royal Opera in the premiere of Heinrich Sutermeister’s Der rote Stiefel in 1951.

Gedda shot to fame after singing for Walter Legge, who cast him as Dmitry in an EMI new recording of Boris Godunov. He went on to record a range of repertoire at Legge’s request, including Bach’s B-minor Mass under Karajan, Cornelius’s Barbier von Baghdad, Strauss’s Capriccio, and Gounod’s Faust, as well as solo recitals.

In 1953, he made his début at La Scala as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and gave his first performances at the Paris Opéra and Covent Garden the following year.

He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Faust in 1957. He would sing 28 roles there over the next 26 years, including Anatol in the premiere of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa and Kodanda in the American premiere of Menotti’s The Last Savage.

Gedda continued teaching and performing well into his 70s, recording Emperor Altoum in the 2002 Chandos recording of Turandot and the High Priest in Mozart’s Idomeneo (released in 2004).

Gedda received the Swedish royal medal Litteris et Artibus in 1968, the Gold Medal for the Promotion of the Art of Music from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1976; other honours included the Caruso prize in 2007 and the French Légion d’honneur in 2010.

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