The Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda has died at the age of 91.
In a career that lasted nearly 50 years, Gedda was particularly admired for his flawlessly agile technique and versatility that saw him explore all corners of the repertoire.
Born in Stockholm in 1925, Gedda lived briefly in Germany as a boy before returning to his home country. Though his first employment was in a bank, he went on to attend Stockholm Conservatory and then, in 1952, made his career debut at the city’s Royal Opera, playing the fiendishly demanding role of Chapelou in Adam’s Postillon de Lonjumeau.
In the audience on that occasion was the famous producer Walter Legge who, hugely impressed, made it something of a mission to propel the young tenor into the spotlight. A performance under the baton of Herbert von Karajan at Milan’s La Scala – as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni – soon followed, as did the first of many visits to the recording studio. Legge had intitially earmarked Gedda as the ideal Dmitri for his EMI disc of Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov, starring Boris Christoff, but over the years his recordings would show the same exceptional range as his appearances on stage – from Bach and Gluck to Enescu and Bernstein, with much in between.
In 1957, US audiences became acquainted with Gedda’s vocal prowess when he appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the title role of Gounod’s Faust. This was the first of many performances at The Met, though he also continued to wow audiences at major venues on both sides of the Atlantic.
Gedda carried on his career right into his 70s – in the early 2000s, he was still recording operas by Puccini and Mozart. He was also an accomplished Lieder performer who could effortlessly turn his attention to singing in a number of different languages.
Two years ago, Gedda’s was death was mistakenly announced in parts of the press, much to the surprise of the tenor himself, who promptly declared himself very much alive. Sadly, on this occasion, the reports are correct.