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Nicolai Gedda (b1925)

The child of a Swedish mother and half-Russian father, Nicolai Gedda was brought up by his aunt Olga Gedda and his adoptive father Mikhail Ustinov, a cantor in the Russian Orthodox church. From 1929 to 1934 the family lived in Leipzig, where he sang in church and performed Russian songs at weddings and parties. After returning to Sweden and completing his formal education, Gedda was keen to sing opera but was unable to fund vocal study. Instead he worked as a bank clerk, but mentioned his hopes to a customer, an instrumentalist with the Stockholm Opera, who asked Karl-Martin Oehmann, a music teacher who had himself been an operatic tenor, to take Gedda as a pupil. Soon afterwards he won a scholarship to the Stockholm Conservatory, which enabled him to study singing full-time from 1950. (Later he also studied with Paola Novikova in New York).

In 1952 Gedda’s stage and recording careers commenced almost simultaneously. He auditioned for the record producer Walter Legge, who immediately contracted him to EMI, and shortly afterwards made his operatic stage debut in Stockholm with Adam’s Le Postillon de Longjumeau. In the same year, also in Stockholm, he sang the title role in Les Contes d’Hoffmann and the Italian Singer / Der Rosenkavalier.



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