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Nicolai Gedda, lyric Swedish tenor

By September 16, 2022March 19th, 2023No Comments

Nicolai Gedda, a Swedish-born singer who was one of the most renowned lyric tenors of the 20th century and performed dozens of roles on the world’s leading opera stages.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Gedda was a regular presence at La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He sang in a variety of languages and was widely heralded for his versatility, musical refinement and vocal clarity.

Gedda sang fluently in many languages. He was a very musical and nuanced singer, with excellent tone production and great interpretative skills.

Because of the way in which this was uploaded to youtube, I will have to give you the link in this way.

Gedda and Callas Carmen final duet, Act IV

Carmen, final duet Act IV

C’est toi!

C’est moi!

L’on m’avait avertie que tu n’étais pas loin,
L’on m’avait même dit de craindre pour ma vie.
Mais je suis brave et n’ai pas voulu fuir.

Je ne menace pas, j’implore, je supplie ;
Notre passé, Carmen, je l’oublie,
Oui, nous allons tous deux commencer une autre vie,
Loin d’ici, sous d’autres cieux !

Tu demandes l’impossible, Carmen jamais n’a menti.
Son âme reste inflexible.
Entre elle et toi, tout est fini.
Jamais je n’ai menti ; entre nous tout est fini.

Carmen, il est temps encore, oui, il est temps encore.
O ma Carmen laisse-moi te sauver, toi qui j’adore,
Et me sauver avec toi !

Non, je sais bien que c’est l’heure,
Je sais bien que tu me tueras ;
Mais, que je vive ou que je meure,
Non, je ne te céderai pas !

Carmen, il est temps encore, etc.

Pourquoi t’occuper encore
D’un cœur qui n’est plus à toi ?
En vain tu dis “Je t’adore”,
Tu n’obtiendras rien de moi.

José (l’air incrédule, dans le plus grand désespoir)
Tu ne m’aimes donc plus ?

Carmen reste silencieuse
Tu ne m’aimes donc plus ?

Non, je ne t’aime plus.

Mais moi, Carmen, je t’aime encore ;
Carmen, hélas ! moi je t’adore !

A quoi bon tout cela ? Que de mots superflus !

Carmen, je t’aime, je t’adore !
Eh bien, s’il le faut, pour te plaire,
Je resterai bandit, tout ce que tu voudras . . .
Tout, tu m’entends, tout !
Mais ne me quitte pas, o ma Carmen
Ah ! souviens-toi du passé !
Nous nous aimons naguère

Jamais Carmen ne cédera!
Libre elle est née et libre elle mourra!


Pendant le refrain, Carmen et José restent silencieux. En entendant le cri “Victoire!” Carmen laisse échapper un “Ah” de fierté et de joie. José ne perd pas de vue Carmen, qui se précipite maintenant vers l’entrée des arènes.

José (barrer son chemin)
Où vas-tu ?

Laisse-moi !

Cet homme qu’on acclame, c’est ton nouvel amant !

Laisse-moi !

Sur mon âme, tu ne passeras pas,
Carmen, c’est moi que tu suivras !

Laisse-moi, Don José, je ne te suivre pas !

Tu vas le retrouver, dis tu l’aimes donc ?

Je l’aime ! et devant la mort même,
Je répéterai que je l’aime !

Ainsi, le salut de mon âme,
Je l’aurai perdu pour que toi,
Pour que tu t’en ailles, infâme, entre ses bras rire de moi !
Non, par le sang, tu n’iras pas !
Carmen, c’est moi que tu suivras !

Non, jamais !

Je suis las de te menacer !

Eh bien ! frappe-moi donc, ou laisse-moi passer !

Pour la dernière fois, démon veux-tu me suivre ?

Non ! Cette bague autrefois, tu me l’avais donnée, tiens !

(Elle enlève la bague de son doigt et lui lance)

José (sortant son poignard, avançant vers Carmen)
Eh bien, damnée !

(Elle bat en retraite et tente de lui échapper. Il l’attrape et la poignarde juste au moment où le refrain à l’intérieur chante la reprise finale. Carmen tombe morte à ses pieds.)

Vous pouvez m’arrêter. C’est moi qui l’a tuée!
Ah, Carmen, ma Carmen adorée!

Carmen, final duet, Act IV

It’s you!

It is I!

They had warned me that you weren’t far,
They had warned me to fear for my life.
But, I am brave and did not wish to run away.

I do not threaten, I implore, I beseech;
I will forget our past,
Yes, we will both go, the two of us, to begin another life.
Far from here, under other skies!

You ask the impossible, Carmen has never lied.
Her soul remains inflexible.
Between her and you, all is finished.
I have never lied; between us, all is over.

Carmen, there is still time, yes there is still time.
Oh, my Carmen, let me save you, you whom I adore,
And myself save with you!

No, I know full well that it is time,
I know full well that you will kill me;
But, whether I live or I die,
No, I will not give in to you!

Carmen, there is still time . . . .

Why trouble yourself still,
With a heart that is no longer yours?
In vain, you say “I adore you”,
You will get nothing from me.

José (looking incredulous, in utmost despair)
You don’t love me then any longer?

(Carmen remains silent)
You don’t love me then any longer?

No, I don’t love you any longer.

But I, Carmen, I still love you;
Carmen, alas, I, I adore you!

To what good is all that? Only superfluous words!

Carmen, I love you, I adore you!
Ah, well, if it is necessary, to please you,
I shall remain a bandit, all that you will want . . .
Anything, do you hear? Anything!
But don’t leave me, oh, my Carmen,
Ah, remember the past!
We loved one another once!
Ah, don’t leave me Carmen!

Carmen will never yield!
Free was she born, and free will she die!

(During this chorus, Carmen and José remain silent. Upon hearing the cry “Victory!”, Carmen lets out an “Ah” of pride and joy. José does not lose sight of Carmen, who now hastens to the entrance of the bull ring.)

José (barring her way)
Where are you going?

Leave me alone!

That man whom they are cheering, he is your new lover!

Leave me alone!

Upon my soul, you will not pass,
Carmen, it is I whom you will follow!

Let me go, Don José, I will not follow you!

You are going to meet him, tell me, you love him then?

I love him! And at the face of Death itself,
I shall repeat that I love him!

Thus, the salvation of my soul,
I would have lost it so that you
So that you might go, you wretch, in the arms to laugh at me!
No, by my own blood, you will not go!
Carmen, it is I whom you will follow!

No, never!

I am weary of threatening you!


All right. Strike me then, or let me pass!

For the last time, demon, will you follow me?

No! This ring that you had once given to me there – take it!

(Elle enlève la bague de son doigt et la lance sur José)

José (taking out his dagger, advancing toward Carmen)
All right, damned one!

(She retreats and tries to evade him. He catches her and stabs her as the chorus inside sings the final reprise. Carmen falls dead at this feet.)

You can arrest me. It is I who killed her!
Ah, Carmen, my beloved Carmen!

Nacht und Träume

Heil’ge Nacht, du sinkest nieder;
Nieder wallen auch die Träume,
Wie dein Mondlicht durch die Räume,
Durch der Menschen stille Brust.
Die belauschen sie mit Lust;
Rufen, wenn der Tag erwacht:
Kehre wieder, heil’ge Nacht!
Holde Träume, kehret wieder!

Night and Dreams

Holy night, you sink down;
Downward also flow dreams,
like your moonlight through emptiness,
through the silent hearts of men.
They listen with glee,
calling when day awakes:
turn back, holy night!
Lovely dreams, return!

Die Nacht

Aus dem Walde tritt die Nacht,
Aus den Bäumen schleicht sie leise,
Schaut sich um in weitem Kreise,
Nun gib Acht!

Alle Lichter dieser Welt,
Alle Blumen, alle Farben
Löscht sie aus und stiehlt die Garben
Weg vom Feld.

Alles nimmt sie, was nur hold,
Nimmt das Silber weg des Stroms
Nimmt vom Kupferdach des Doms
Weg das Gold.

Ausgeplündert steht der Strauch:
Rücke näher, Seel’ an Seele,
O die Nacht, mir bangt, sie stehle
Dich mir auch.


Night leaves the woods,
Creeps softly from the trees,
Looks about her in a wide arc,
Now beware!

All the lights of this world,
All the flowers, all the colors
She puts out and steals the bundles
From the field.

Everything she takes, what only is lovely,
Takes the silver from the stream,
Takes the copper roof from the cathedral
Away the gold.

The bush stands robbed:
Draw closer, soul to soul,
Ah the night, I fear, will steal
You too from me.

Jeg elsker Dig (I love you)

Min Tankes Tanke ene Du er vorden,
Du er mit Hjærtes første Kjærlighed.
Jeg elsker Dig som Ingen her på Jorden,
Jeg elsker Dig i Tid og Evighed.

I love you

You have become the single thought of my thoughts,
you are the first love of my heart.
I love you as no one else here on Earth,
I love you for time and eternity!

Nicolai Gedda
July 11, 1925 – January 8, 2017

Of all the important tenors active during the latter half of the twentieth century, Nicolai Gedda was by far the most versatile and industrious. During a career that spanned nearly fifty years, Gedda was in demand the world over for the warm, sweet, silvery beauty of his voice, his patrician command of style, and an unshowy but dazzling technical virtuosity that was invariably in the service of the music.

Born to poor parents in Stockholm, Gedda was raised by his father’s sister and her Russian husband, a Cossack singer and cantor in a Russian orthodox church. It was from his strict stepfather that Gedda picked up his facility with languages and reading music—as well as an innate shyness and a distaste for confrontation that did not serve him well in later dealings with opera managements, not to mention two unhappy early marriages. The vocal rudiments were there from the beginning, however, and while he was working at his first job, as a bank teller, one of his helpful customers recommended a teacher—Carl-Martin Oehman, a former lyric tenor at Stockholm Opera and mentor of Jussi Björling.

Oehman, Gedda once recalled in his typically modest way, “taught me all the essentials, which I knew nothing about.” One can’t help thinking that the perfect vocal placement, firm muscular support, smooth register management and sovereign musical instincts were already present, just waiting to be coaxed out. Additional studies at Stockholm Conservatory lasted just two years before Gedda—in 1952, at age twenty-six—was given the leading role in Adam’s Postillon de Lonjumeau at the Royal Opera and created a sensation, especially with the brilliant high Ds that cap the coachman Chapelou’s famous entrance aria. Walter Legge, EMI’s legendary record impresario, and his wife, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, were in town and demanded to hear the new tenor everyone was raving about. After a short audition, Legge immediately fired off cables to conductor Herbert von Karajan and Antonio Ghiringhelli, the intendant of La Scala: “Just heard the greatest Mozart singer in my life: his name is Nicolai Gedda.”

What happened next would probably leave any young singer breathless. Gedda was instantly cast as Dimitri in EMI’s splashy new recording of Boris Godunov, starring Boris Christoff (“that Boris recording opened the doors of the world to me,” Gedda once remarked), and he made a La Scala debut as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni under Karajan’s baton. Gedda suddenly had invitations to sing everywhere—Faust and Weber’s Oberon in Paris, the Duke of Mantua at Covent Garden and dozens of other requests from Rome, Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Munich and Tokyo.

Rudolf Bing snapped up Gedda early on (an unusual move by this canny impresario, who usually liked to keep Metropolitan Opera audiences expectantly waiting, even for the most sensational new discoveries), and Gedda made his Met debut on November 1, 1957, as Faust. Thereafter the tenor, like so many important singers of his generation, tended to base himself in New York, while reserving plenty of time to fulfill engagements in Europe and make hundreds of recordings. So New York heard Gedda display the full range of his vocal talents and language facility until he left the company in 1983—classic roles (Don Ottavio, Admèto in Alceste), standard repertory (the Duke, Alfredo, Rodolfo, Pinkerton, Edgardo), French specialties (Hoffmann, Don José, des Grieux, Pelléas, Roméo), bel canto (La Sonnambula, L’Elisir d’Amore, Don Pasquale), Russian roles (Dmitri, Lenski, Gherman), new American opera (Vanessa and The Last Savage) and even a touch of operetta (Johann Strauss’s Gypsy Baron). Gedda never generated the hysterical fan response of, say, Franco Corelli, but few left his finely nuanced, vocally secure, emotionally generous performances feeling cheated.
Gedda wound down his career slowly during the 1990s, giving concerts, teaching and taking on occasional character roles. He also finally found marital contentment in 1997 with Aino Sellermark, who collaborated with Gedda on his memoirs, My Life—My Art. The couple settled in what appeared to be an idyllic retirement in Tolochenaz, a Swiss villa.