Nicolai Gedda has died, aged 91

Nicolai Gedda has died, aged 91


norman lebrecht

February 09, 2017

The family has confirmed the death, on January 8, of the great Swedish tenor, one of the most lasting ornaments of the opera stage. He was a fixture of the international opera calendar from 1952 to his retirement in 2003.

He mastered 70 roles and made 200 recordings.


News of his death was given today to the forumopera site by his daughter, Tania.

Rising in the footsteps of his compatriot Jussi Björling, Gedda made his Paris debut in Weber’s Oberon in 1954 and was immediately awarded a company contract. He appeared at Covent Garden that same year and at the Met in 1957, returning regularly for quarter of a century.

A master of controlled power, he excelled as much at recital as in opera. He stood up to conductors, famously resisting the demands of Herbert von Karajan, and was kind to colleagues.

He endured two turbulent marriages before finding domestic contentment.


  • Petros Linardos says:

    A truly great musician.

  • Anders Lindgren says:

    One of the greatest. We will miss him.

  • Daniel F. says:

    Gedda was a somewhat unheralded giant & a particular favorite of the great Otto Klemperer: just a wonderful singer. His Tamino in the latter’s Magic Flute recording is in a class by itself.

    91 is, by the way, a very popular age to die at. If a person can get by 91, the danger doesn’t lurk again until 94 and 95.

    • Michael Engel says:

      Actually – I should say actuarially – most peopel who pass the age of 90 die aged 93.

      • Sue says:

        As my late father used to say, “nobody wants to live to 90 – unless they’re 89!!”

        • seymour levy says:

          did not know of his death. considered him a friend. am handicapped by a collapsing spine and your father keeps me company as I exercise on the stationery bike each morning. am 94 and am sorry I missed saying thank you.

  • Manfred Gerber says:

    Nicolai, we loved you!
    Thank you for a lifetime friendship.
    Kari and Manfred

  • Wm Bond says:

    wonderful singer…

  • Evelyn La Quaif says:

    My mother, Lucine Amara LOVED Nicolai. Her fondest memories of their time together on stage was the burping competitions they had in the wings. She is very sad today and wishes his family much love and respect. Mom is 92 March 1st.


    • Joan Rutkowski says:

      I met your Mother in the 60s at the Bocce Ball in San Francisco. I was singing there as she had done before me. Please give her my love. She was a very special and wonderful singer.

    • Kate Forbush says:

      Your mother was another wonderful singer – she sang Liu in the very first opera I ever attended, and demonstrated what a high pianissimo should be so unforgettably that decades later I’d never heard anyone match her. I’m glad she’s still with us!

    • Helene Joseph-Weil (Helene Farras) says:

      I sang with your mother on an RCA Victor recording of “Lohengrin” with Sandor Konya and Erich Leinsdorf conducting in Boston, 1965, after we had performed it at Tanglewood that summer. She was always one of my favorite singers at The Met, very reliable and a musical, sensitive artist with such a beautiful voice. Please tell her I shall always treasure my memory of performing with her, albeit in my very small role of Erste Edelknabe, and of how kind and encouraging she was to me, a young singer. God bless you Mme. Amara and continue to be well! Helene Farras (my New York professional singing name at the Met Studio and at Tanglewood.)

  • Peter Grönlund says:

    Nicolai, you were an inspiring teacher and a friend. I will miss you!

  • Federico says:

    A sad news. An excellent singers, en many ot he roles he assume.

  • Bruce Ford says:

    I remember hearing him live for the first time at the Volksoper singing Sou Chong in Das Land des Lächelns. It was so thrilling that I went to his dressing room afterwards and asked if he would have time to hear me. He said to give me his card and would call if he had the time. I understood. He was a very busy man. Then months later, he called me early one morning in Germany and asked if I could to come to a Masterclass in Switzerland where I would sing for him. Unfortunately, I was singing at that time, but very chuffed that he made time to think of me. We later worked together on a recording where I sang the leading role and he took a secondary role. Even then, he always had an encouraging word for apprentices like me. RIP

  • Berta Calechman says:

    Since I was 12 oe 13, I have had 2 vocal idols in my life. One was Nicolai Gedda. I was privileged to know him, when I was at Juilliard, and his performances were always the lights of my life. My heart is broken, now that he has left us. He did leave us with such a magnificent legacy, and for that I am grateful. All I can do now, is thank him for all the joy he gave me, and hope that he will Rest in Eternal Peace.

  • I remember hearing Nicolai when i was very young at Lyric opera of Chicago in a production of la Traviata and became a big fan of his and of opera in general! Thanks Nicolai for turning me on to opera

  • Rodney Punt says:

    Sad news. Where does one begin in praising Nicolai Gedda’s great legacy? Record shelves around the world are graced with performances of his ardent, aristocratic lyric tenor, realizing musical visions of Mozart, Schubert, Rossini, and Berlioz. For me, his spirit is immortal, his voice imperishable. Gedda can have the last word here, in Schubert’s ‘Nacht und Träume’ with pianist Gerald Moore:

  • Janja Urbančič says:

    I am very sad. I love his voice so very much. He is my favourite tenor. RIP.

  • Janja Urbančič says:

    RIP, maestro. I love your voice so very much!

  • Christer Ottosson says:

    The most beautiful voice of all is silent.

  • Robert Swensen says:

    Nicolai was one the titans of tenor artistry and technical perfection in the golden age of opera and song. I had a priceless opportunity to work through the role of Nadir with him in the summer of 1990 in Morges, Switzerland, his main home in addition to the apartment in Stockholm. He was focussed, musical and incredibly clear with his voca advicel. He was a gentleman and generous committed mentor. As a professor at the Eastman School of Music, I have the opportunity to pass on what I learned from Nicolai to my own students, particularly the tenors. He was a tremendous gift to the art of singing. All one would need to hear is his incomparable recording of Rachmaninoff songs with the fabulous Alexis Weissenberg to understand the legacy he has left for all of us. I will miss him.

    Robert Swensen

  • John Cheek says:

    Is his death date January 8 correct? If so does anyone know why the announcement was delayed for a month?

    • MWnyc says:

      Because he wanted it that way, evidently. The first sentence of the ForumOpera article is, “On apprend par sa fille Tania le décès de Nicolai Gedda le 8 janvier dernier dans la plus grande discrétion selon son souhait.”

  • Bruce Kelly says:

    He sat in on many of my lessons with Pierre Fleta, a very close friend of his . My condolences to his family especially Tania whom I sang with in Nice.

  • Irina Minsky says:

    Вечная Память

  • Sergi Kaminsky says:

    A renoun opera singer who also sang and accompanied many choirs in Europe and the USA in recording the beautiful hymns of the Russian Orthodox Church services as well as adding his voice in the Divine services bringing joy and tears to the prayerful,Memory Eternal Nicolai.

  • John Koch says:

    Nicolai: I was raised inspired by your maginificent high Ds. May they now inspire God and the many admirers that now share the celestial heavens with you..your talents here on earth shall endure…

  • Alexandre Agustoni says:

    Immortal through his recordings. Complete artist. Great life, great loss.

  • Neil Eddinger says:

    When I came to NYC as an aspiring singer in the late 1960s there were far more than three great tenors to study and enjoy at the Met. In those days there were giants in the world. One was Nicolaï Gedda and I saw him numerous times in signature roles like Faust, Hoffmann, Lensky, Edgardo and Nemorino. One of the most enjoyable events was seeing two of those giant tenors on stage together in “The Bartered Bride”: Gedda and Vickers. One of the most impressive performances I remember was Gedda’s Arrigo in “I Vespri Siciliani.” In the aria “Giorno di pianto” it seemed as if he would blow the roof off with the power of a dramatic tenor yet in the last act he zipped up to an effortless high D. A few years ago I read in an interview that he felt his New York public had forgotten him and that made me sad because it was so untrue. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to see him so many times in so many roles. His countless recordings, both studio and in performance, will remain to be enjoyed and learned from by generations of singers and aficionados yet unborn. Thank you and rest in peace, Maestro Gedda.

    • Neil Eddinger says:

      How could I forget his Don José in “Carmen” with Regina Resnik? The only time he disappointed me was when he had to cancel out of “Guglielmo Tell” for Eve Queller. That would have been an unforgettable event.

  • Daniel Raymond says:

    Il Maestro è morto ma il suo ricordo vivrà per sempre.

  • Maria says:

    No mention whatsoever on UK TV news, as far as I’m aware. Perhaps I missed it.

    If we are serious about bringing opera, and classical music generally, to a wider public, it has to be treated as something that matters.

    I’ve believed for a long time that special educational schemes for children will not be fully effective until it gets fair coverage in the MSM and, occasionally, in the movies. It’s regarded by many as a weird “geeky” thing, like trainspotting.

    I don’t recall any TV coverage of the death of Neville Marriner, either. Perhaps I missed that as well.

  • Richard Craig says:

    very sad to hear of the death of this great tenor who graced the stages of the worlds greatest opera houses, just looking at your headlines for 10th Feb you seem to have omitted a rather important event Leontyne Price,s 90th birthaday I can understand that Mr Geddas death may take presidence of this,but Miss Price was a very major figure in opera of the 2oth century.

  • Borech says:

    Saw and enjoyed Nicolai Gedda at Covent Garden in a character role in Palestrina in 1997. I thought he had long retired, then but he still had great presence.

  • Galina says:

    Very sad indeed. Another giant has passed into eternity.
    I remember hearing him as Lensky at Covent Garden in 1984 in Eugene Onegin with great Gabriela Benackova as Tatiana. The applause went on for 20 minutes after the arioso.
    He was a complete musician, a true artist and had an amazing command of languages.
    We will not see the likes of him again.
    RIP maestro. It was a great privilege to share the planet with you.

  • Thomas Newby says:

    I am so glad that I was able to record many of Nicolai Gedda’s New York performances. I can simply put on a CD and relive the performances that he gave. It was thrilling to hear his vocalism in Live performances. he was absolutely thrilling, and there is no one singing today who is his equal.

  • Ivan Sec says:

    A great singer. A part of my remembrance left together wit him. Thank you, Maestro.

  • Keith Boldt says:

    Gedda was an inspiration to me for his combination of pristine singing WITH clear diction. Exquisite and missed dearly….

  • Gianni Zeno says:

    I remember in my early days in New York I was studying with Novikova and was in Gedda’s company a few times. At one small gathering in the 72nd St. Novikova brownstone, Gedda navigated conversations in VERY fluent Russian, Italian, German, Swedish, French and English. He was a brilliant linguist. Around that same time he gave an exquisite recital at the Metropolitan Museum in which he sang a wide range of styles flawlessly. The song that night that I still hear him sing in my mind is the Veracini, “Meco verrari su quella”. A diamond-like gem!

  • Harry Gotwetter says:

    Dear Maestro Gedda,

    I know you only through your records, but I feel your loss like you were my uncle. There was no announcement of your passing here in Los Angeles, not even on the Opera Show or the Met broadcast. How very sad! You are my favorite international Tenor. I have two of your 78’s, through some of the later Bluebell records, and every one of them thrill me. My condolences go out to you family and friends. RIP

  • Lover of Nicolai's voice. says:

    Nicolai Gedda was the first world famous tenor I heard through a vinyl recording I bought of him, from WH Smith’s as lead tenor in ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’, which has long been my favourite opera…….indeed its plot has more or less been the story of my life so far.
    Along with Elisabeth Swartzkopf, Victoria de los Angeles, Georges London, Ernest Blanc,Jeanette d’Angelo, and conductor Monsieur Cluytens, and many other first rate artistes, I played that record over and over again in the winter of 1974/75. Indeed, so much had I recalled the lyrics, that I sang the Barcharol, the sextet, the final closing scene, the opening Kleinzach part, and various other of Nicolai’s arias, yes, all these whilst walking up and down the main streets of Harrow in January 1975, whilst staying at the Harrow Hotel in Pinner Road.I especially recall the base baritone aria ‘Scintille, Diamonde, Miroir ou se prends l’alouette!’, sung by Erenest Blanc, I think, and I can sing that aria right now if I chose to. What an Opera! What a star studded cast!. Nicolai, in this wonderful French opera, really opened my heart’s delight in opera. Long had it been a dream of mine to meet him, however unlikely that would have been. But alas! That dream now seems to have been blown away into the mists of day. Bonsoir, Nicolai, I hope to meet you in Heaven, yes, the Heaven written of in the Bible. I will miss my hope, but a billion thank you’s, Nicolai, for your superbly underrated and streamingly lyrical voice that will long resound in the ever rolling annuls of Opera’s Greats!

  • Ljerka Vladović says:

    He was the best! He was brilliant! Nobody sings on this way. I study my pupils that they must
    listen this sound and remember. This sound is aim.

    My English is no very good. Sorry!

    Ljerka Vladović, singing teacher from Zagreb, Croatia