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Nicolai Gedda – “In fernem Land” – “Lohengrin” – Live at Royal Opera of Stockholm – January 29th 1966

by Luca

Nicolai Gedda (born 11 July 1925) is a Swedish operatic tenor. Having made some two hundred recordings, Gedda is said to be the most widely recorded tenor in history. Gedda’s singing is best known for his beauty of tone, vocal control, and musical perception.
Nicolai Harry Gustav Gedda means was born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and a half-Russian father. Gedda was raised by his aunt Olga Gedda and his adoptive father Mihail Ustinov (a distant relative of Peter Ustinov), who sang bass in Serge Jaroff’s Don Cossack Choir and was cantor in a Russian Orthodox church. Gedda grew up bilingual in Swedish and Russian. From 1929 to 1934 they lived in Leipzig, Germany, where young Nicolai learned German. They returned to Sweden after Hitler came to power. In school he later learned English, French and Latin. After leaving school he learned Italian by himself.
Gedda began his professional career as a bank teller in a local bank in Stockholm. One day he told a client that he was searching for a good singing teacher, and the client recommended Carl Martin Öhman, a well known Wagnerian tenor from the 1920s, who is also credited with discovering Jussi Björling. Later he also taught the Finnish bass Martti Talvela. Öhman was enthusiastic about Gedda and took him as a pupil, at the beginning without payment, because Gedda had to support his parents with his pay. After a few months he obtained a scholarship and was later able to pay for Öhman’s lectures.
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 art songs. As an interpreter of Lieder he often performed with the pianist Sebastian Peschko. Gedda’s language skills, intellectualism and intense musicality, as well as his extensive recordings, have rendered him particularly indispensable in this genre. Gedda has also taught and former students include Daryl Simpson of the Celtic Tenors.
In 1965 he became Swedish Court Singer, and in 1966 a member of the Swedish Academy of Music. Also in 1966 he received K.u.K ( Kaiser und König) award for singing. In 1968 he was decorated with the Swedish medal “Litteris et artibus.” In 1976 he got the golden Nobel medal and in 2007 he received Caruso prize.
In 2010 he received from the French president Nicolas Sarkozy the Legion of Honor, or Légion d’honneur, the highest French decoration.
Nicolai Gedda was a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London and in 1994 he was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy.