One of the most beloved leading tenors of his time, Nicolai Gedda was acclaimed for his bright, expressive voice, a flawlessly smooth range, and a high standard of interpretation and musicianship. His strong technique allowed him a long career in opera, operetta, oratorio and concert, and a wide repertoire in multiple languages.
His multi-lingual fluency (he has sung the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute in as many as five languages) is due in part to his Russian/Swedish parentage. Born in Stockholm in 1925, he spent his early years in Leipzig where his father was choir master of a Russian Orthodox church. His family returned to Stockholm prior to the Second World War, where he became a student at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
The year 1952 marked the beginning of a major career. He made his highly successful opera debut with the Stockholm Royal Opera in Adam's Le Postillon de Lonjumeau. Almost simultaneously, he was signed to sing the role of Dmitri in EMI's recording of Boris Godunov with Boris Christoff. His La Scala debut followed that same season as Don Ottavio in Don
Giovanni led by Karajan.
His international celebrity as a leading tenor followed rapidly, with engagements in Paris, London, Salzburg, Vienna and Rome. His debut at the Metropolitan Opera came in 1957 in the title role of Gounod's Faust. The following year, he created the role of Anatol in the premiere of Barber's Vanessa.
Mr. Gedda's brilliant career continued into the next four decades with a repertoire of 75 operas. In 1965, he once again sang Faust to open the final season at the historic, original Metropolitan Opera House. He also enjoyed great success as a concert singer, including a series of lieder recitals enthusiastically received at the Salzburg Festival. In the 1980's, he performed in both opera and concert in Russia, and in 1991 appeared in a revival of Gustaf Wasa in Stockholm.
He has made over two hundred recordings in a long association with EMI. He was appointed Singer to the Royal Court of Sweden by King Gustavus VI in 1965, and his first memoirs were published in the book Gavan ar Inte Gratis (Stockholm 1978). Nicolai Gedda: My Life and Art (autobiography) was released in 2003. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and was made an Honorary Member of that Academy in 1994. Among his many awards and honors is France's Legion of Honor, presented to him in 2010.