Nicolai Gedda was one of opera’s most proficient artists, taking on dozens and dozens of roles throughout his career.
For many, Gedda, born on July 11, 1925, will always be associated with the role of “Faust” in Gounod’s famous work, one which he performed hundreds of times, but he also performed a number of roles that one might not associate with him, or many iconic tenors, for that matter. Here are some of the operas you didn’t know that Gedda performed.
The tenor took on the role of Grigory at the Metropolitan Opera four times in his career. It was a role that he took on early in his career and was also contracted to recorded with HMV. He received praise from record producer Walter Legge for his interpretation of the role as well, though Legge refers to him as “Dmitriy.” “
An avid interpreter of some of the great French operas, Gedda never stepped away from a major challenge and took on the famously challenging opera by Berlioz. He recorded the opera with a luxurious cast that included Marilyn Horne, Shirley Verrett and showcased Georges Pretre in the pit. He also interpreted the role of “Benvenuto Cellini,” famously calling it one of his favorite roles.
Gedda’s voice was never apt for the heavier Wagnerian repertoire, but that didn’t stop him from taking a stab at the title role of “Lohengrin,” which he attempted in 1966. One critic was quick to point out that the tenor’s “command of intonation and rhythm contributed to an overwhelmingly beautiful impression right from his unaccompanied appearance in the first act.” He never performed it again, though he was supposed to sing it at the Bayreuth Festival in 1967.
The little-known opera by Hans Pfitzner was first performed in 1917 and Gedda performed in the work to the Royal Opera House in 1997 six performances, though at that point he was far from a leading man.
Le Postillon de Lonjumeau
The Adolphe Adam opera was Gedda’s first in a principal role in Stockholm and he received tremendous praise for his performance, particularly in taking on the “Ronde du Postillon,” which calls for a demanding High D from the tenor.
Les Indes Galantes and Platée
Gedda took on both Rameau works at differing moments in his career. First came “Les Indes Galantes,” with the tenor performing the role of Damon in Rameau’s “ballet héroïque” for his Paris Opera debut in 1954. He took on “Platée” at Aix-en-Provence in 1954.
Gedda never shied away from contemporary opera and famously performed in the world premiere of the Barber opera alongside Eleanor Steber, Rosalind Elias and Regina Resnik. He received raves for his opening night showing, with Paul Hume of the Washington Post noting, “Nicolai Gedda, the Met’s new Swedish tenor, distinguished himself in every way, especially for his superb English, the finest of the otherwise American cast.”
The Last Savage
Gedda was the tenor of note at the American premiere of the Menotti Opera. Alongside him Teresa Stratas, Roberta Peters, George London, and Ezio Flagello among others.