Nicolai Gedda was born in Stockholm on 11th July 1925. His Russian father was a member of the Kuban Don Cossack Choir; his mother, whose maiden name he adopted professionally, was Swedish. As a boy, he was trained in Leipzig, where his father became choirmaster at the Russian Orthodox Church in 1928. The family returned to Stockholm in 1934, and Gedda sang in the local Russian church. After army service, work in a Stockholm bank, and singing lessons with Carl Martin Oehmann he won the Christine Nilsson Singing Competition in 1950.He pursued further study at the Stockholm Conservatory where he was auditioned by EMI’s producer Walter Legge in 1952, who was bowled over by Gedda’s voice, musicianship and technique. Given that he spoke fluent Russian, Legge signed him on the spot to take on the role of Dmitri in his upcoming recording of Boris Godunov, in spite of the fact that Gedda was yet to make his stage début - which followed at the Stockholm Opera the same year, as Chapelou in Adam’s Le postillon de Longjumeau - to massive success. This began a lifelong association with EMI.

He went on to make his début at La Scala as Don Ottavio in the 1952-3 season, and at Orff’s request, created the role of the Bridegroom in his Il trionfo d’Afrodite. In February 1954 he sang Huon in a new production of Oberon at the Paris Opéra, and the next year made his Covent Garden début as the Duke in Rigoletto. He sang regularly at the Metropolitan since 1956, creating Anatol in Barner’s Vanessa in 1958 and singing Kodana in the first American performance of Menotti’s Le dernier sauvage in 1964. At the 1961 Holland Festival he sang Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, a role he has made very much his own: he repeated it at Covent Garden in 1966, 1969 (when he recorded it) and 1976.

Gedda has over 100 recordings of opera, operetta, oratorio and lieder to his credit. A fine linguist, speaking and singing in seven languages, and with a large operatic and recital repertory, he also commands the range of vocal and idiomatic style for Cellini and Pftizner’ Palestrina, Tchaiovsky’s Herman and Fauré’s songs. He is considered to be one of the most versatile and gifted artists of his time. He now lives in retirement in Stockholm.

FromEMI Classics
This biography was most recently edited by...
iecontent1 - 7 Jul 2010