Nicolai Gedda’s family has announced that the legendary tenor died on January 8, 2017. He was 91 years old.
Gedda was a master of diction. If I ever had a new aria to learn I would listen to Gedda first in order to make sure I was “doing it right.” The beauty of his voice is what he will be remembered for.
He was the first tenor I ever heard sing a high-d-natural. It was one of those moments that raised my conception of what the human voice is capable of. If his voice was only beautiful he would have been just another tenor but the voice was also exciting.
The recordings of Gedda reach back beyond the stereo age and into the dim days of mono. His rendering of Pinkerton opposite Maria Callas’s Butterfly has been a favorite for generations of opera lovers. Some, myself included, consider him to be the defining singer for the role of Lenski in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
When Gedda stopped performing professionally he was 77. His 40-year career is an example of a singer “doing it right.” Only once, that I know of, did he try to sing outside his wheelhouse. That occasion was a production of Wagner’s Lohengrin.