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Collection: Great Moments of…NICOLAI GEDDA (b.1925)
EMI CMS5 67445 2 Mono/Stereo 3 CDs
 Amazon UK   £15.99

CD 1 contains arias from:-
Eugene Onegin; Massenet: Werther and Manon; Bizet Les Pêcheurs de Perles; Auber La Muette de Portici; Gounod: Roméo et Juliette; Ponchielli: La Gioconda; Verdi: Rigoletto Flotow: Martha; Donizetti: L'Elisir D'Amore and La Favorita Cilea: L'Arlesiana; Mussorgsky: Boris Godunow Rimsky-Korsakov: Die Mainacht; Adam Postiljonen Från Longjumeau
CD2 contains arias from:-
Le Devin du Village; Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice; Mozart: Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte and The Abduction from the Seraglio; Weber: Oberon; Flotow: Alessandro Stradella; Wagner: Lohengrin; Goldmark: Die Königin von Saba; Nicolai: Die Lustigen Weiber Von Windsor
CD3 contains arias from:-
Benvenuto Cellini; Delibes: Lakmé; Massenet: Werther; Lalo: Le Roi D'ys Meyerbeer Les Hugenots; Rossini: Guillaume Tell; Bellini: La Sonnambula; Donizetti Lucia Di Lammermoor and Don Pasquale -- plus encores:- Lara: Granada; Rossini: La Danza; Godard: Berceuse and Meyer-Helmund: Gute Nacht, mein holdes, süsse Mädchen


Nicolai Gedda, one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, was born in Sweden in 1925. His discography is prodigious, with the catalogues listing over 100 complete recordings, or highlights of operas, and operettas. Additionally, there are his solo recitals; sacred music and Lieder and folk songs (examples of which are promised in subsequent collections).

Gedda was fluent in nine languages, and these excerpts demonstrate his remarkable clarity of diction in them all. Just listen to his immaculate English and his perfect control, for instance, in the demanding aria 'Love only love, can now direct me' from the Bath Festival performance of The Abduction from the Seraglio conducted by Yehudi Menuhin.

As this collection proves, Gedda was the most versatile of tenors. His talent encompassed a wide range of musical styles and he was acclaimed for the beauty of his voice and the rare intelligence with which he used it. His final operatic appearance was at Covent Garden in 1997 but he still gives occasional recitals. He appeared many times in premières and first performances as well as in revivals of forgotten operas.

The earliest item in the collection is of a live recording made during the 1952 run of the Stockholm Royal Opera performance of Adolphe Adam's Postillon Från Lonjumeau. Here the voice is bright and almost delicate. Later it would gain in body and resilience without loosing any of its lightness of intonation that enabled Gedda to tackle the highest peaks and the trickiest tessitura with such apparent ease. Listen to how he surmounts, for instance, the challenge of the incredibly high register demanded in Gluck's Orpheus.

The recordings in this 3-CD collection span the years 1953 to 1974. The earlier ones are in mono but there is no diminution in the listening experience. Very many of these excerpts appear on CD for the first time.

I was entranced from beginning to end. It would be invidious to select items for special mention, nevertheless, I will just mention a few which I particularly enjoyed. In addition to those already mentioned, from CD1: the beautifully phrased Lensky's aria from Act II of Tchaikowsky's Eugene Onegin; the exquisite tenderness of his 'Je crois entendre encore' from Bizet's Les pècheurs de perles; the sheer bel canto beauty of his 'Cielo e mart' (Ponchielli's La Gioconda ); and of his grand heroic singing of the three Boris Godunow arias (Mussorgsky). From CD2: I was impressed with his fervent 'Dalla sua pace' and 'Il mio tesoro intanto' from Mozart's Don Giovanni; plus the rapturous beauty of his 'Jungfrau Maria' from Alessandro Stradella (Flotow); his 'In fernem Land' from Wagner's Lohengrin; and his 'Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain!' from Otto Nicolia's Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor. From: CD3, examples of his great French Grand Opera performances:- the way he vents his spleen in the darkly dramatic 'Un autre est son époux! - J' aurais sur ma poitrine' from Massenet's Werther; the flowing beauty and control in 'Puisqu'on ne peut pas fléchir ces jalouses gardiennes - Vainement, ma bien-aimée from Lalo's Le Roi D'ys; and his heroic denial of the charms of the florid Mady Mesplé in their duet, 'Beauté divine enchantreresse' from Les Huguenots of Meyerbeer. Then there is his wonderful noble heroic singing of the demanding aria 'Asilie héréditaire - Amis, amis, secondez ma vengeance' from Rossini's Guillaume Tell and his marvellous Bellini and Donizetti duets with the marvellus Mirella Freni. I would also mention the lovely Berceuse from Godard's Jocelyn in the sparkling encores that round off this set.

Unhesitatingly recommended. A wonderful operatic experience.

Ian Lace

See review of Gedda's autobiography My Life and Art

Reviews from previous months

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