Much is said these days about Plácido Domingo’s expansive repertoire, but before him, Nicolai Gedda was arguably the man to tackle the most works in recent opera history.
So vast was his repertoire that the Swedish tenor, born on July 11, 1925, performed operas in Italian, French, English, Czech, Swedish, Russian, German, and even Latin. He left behind over 200 recordings, making him one of the most recorded artists of all time.
He actually kicked off his career as a bank teller in Stockholm and helping his parents economically. However, he asked a client one day for a singing teacher and was recommended with seeking out Carl Martin Öman, who took to Gedda nicely.
It was only a matter of years before his career broke out with a debut at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. He would go on to sing dozens upon dozens of roles at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Paris Opéra, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and Metropolitan Opera, among others.
He would sing well into his late 70s and his tremendous career earned him a number of major honors, including Swedish Court Singer, Legion of Honor from France, and Gold Medal for the Promotion of the Art of Music from the Swedish Academy of Music, and the Caruso Prize.
He died in 2017 at the age of 91.
It seems that you can’t get too far away from Gedda without mentioning the role of “Faust” for which he was quite well-known. He made his Met Opera debut with the role. He made his U.S. debut in Pittsburgh with the role. He appeared on American television in the role. His final Met performance featured him in the final scene of the opera as well. Of course, he also recorded the opera.
Regarding his recording of the opera, Classics Today noted, “Nicolai Gedda’s Faust is a model of how the role is supposed to be sung, his phrasing always musical, the use of dynamics intelligent. Rarely has a tenor risen to the high-C at the close of ‘Salut demeure’ with such grace and ease; his Garden Duet with Angeles is warm and languid.”
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Watch and Listen
Check out this recital of opera arias.
And you know we weren’t going to leave without “Faust.”