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Nicolai Gedda
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Nicolai Gedda

The Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda (born July 11, 1925) is a famous opera singer and recitalist. What he lacks in Italianate tone and squillo, he amply compensates for in versatility, with more than sixty roles to his credit, ranging from Rameau to Shostakovich. Having made some two hundred recordings, Gedda is said to be the most widely-recorded tenor in history.

Gedda was born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and a Russian father, who sang bass in a Don Cossack choir and was cantor in a Russian Orthodox church; he grew up bilingual and learned English, German, Italian, and Latin. Gedda began his professional career as a bank teller in a local bank in Stockholm. One day a wealthy client overheard him speaking about his desire to sing professionally, and offered to pay for his tuition to study with Karl Martin Oehmann, a well known Wagnerian tenor from the 1920s who also discovered Jussi Björling;.

In 1952, at the age of 27, Gedda made his debut at the Royal Swedish Opera, performing the role of Chapelon in Adolphe Adam's Le Postillon di Langjumeau. In this same year he also performed the role of Nicklaus in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman and the tenor role in Der Rosenkavalier.

After an audition in Stockholm, he gained the attention of conductor Herbert von Karajan, who took him to Italy. In 1953, he made his début at La Scala as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. In 1954, he made his Paris Opera debut in the tenor role in Weber's Oberon, and was given a permanent contract for several years. In 1957, Gedda made his Metropolitan Opera début in the title role of Gounod's Faust, and went on to sing sang 28 roles there over the next 26 years, including the world premieres of Barber's Vanessa and Menotti's The Last Savage. Gedda made his Royal Opera House Covent Garden début in 1954 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi's Rigoletto (opera)|Rigoletto]] and has since returned to sing Benvenuto Cellini, Alfredo, Gustavus III in Un Ballo in Maschera, Nemorino and Lensky.

In addition to his opera performances, Gedda cultivated an active parallel career as a recitalist, with a large repertoire of French, German, Scandinavian, and Russian artsongs.

A singer of unusual longevity, Gedda has been active well into his late 70s; in May 2001 he recorded the role of the Emperor Altoum in Puccini's Turandot and the role of the High Priest in Mozart's Idomeneo in June 2003.

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