10 February 2017 at 12.00pm | 9 Comments
Nicolai Gedda (1925–2017) had one of the most majestic voices of his generation. He had an exceptional ear for music and lyrics, singing fluently in seven languages. Added to this was a robust technique that kept his top register secure well into his later life. His long and illustrious stage career included many memorable appearances at Covent Garden.
Gedda trained at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and made his professional debut in 1951 with the Royal Swedish Opera. In 1953 Gedda made his debut at La Scala, Milan, as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Further international debuts soon followed, including at Covent Garden, as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, in 1954.
After this sensational debut Gedda returned to sing the title role in La Damnation de Faust with the Company under Georg Solti at the Edinburgh Festival. But perhaps his most impressive work with The Royal Opera during this period were his performances in the testing title role of Benvenuto Cellini in 1966 and 1969 under John Pritchard and in 1976 under Colin Davis, in a production directed by John Dexter.
His further roles with The Royal Opera included Alfredo (La traviata, opposite Montserrat Caballé), Gustavus (Un ballo in maschera) Lensky (Eugene Onegin) and Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore). He made his final Covent Garden appearance in 1997 as Abdisu in Pfitzner’s Palestrina.
Gedda had an immense vocal style, elegance and grace, which he brought to all his roles. His versatility – from Verdi, Berlioz and Lehár, to the composers for whom he created roles, including Barber and Orff – marked him out as a truly special musician. His colleague Luciano Pavarotti once remarked, ‘There is no tenor alive with a greater ease in the upper register than Gedda’.
The Royal Opera’s Director of Opera, Kasper Holten, paid this tribute: ‘It is with great sadness we learn that Nicolai Gedda has passed away. For a long time he was a true giant of the opera world. He inspired and moved countless audiences, including at Covent Garden, with his extraordinary voice and artistry. The memory of this wonderful artist will never leave us.’