Opera Singer. A lyric tenor, he is remembered for his long career in the world's leading venues. Born Harry Gustaf Nikolai Gedda, he was raised in poverty under the name Nikolai Ustinov, learned to sing in the Russian Orthodox Church, and following World War II worked as a bank teller while studying at the Stockholm Conservatory; he had his April 1952 professional bow with the Royal Swedish Opera as Chapelou from Adolphe Adam's "Le Postillon de Lonjumeau" and after making an impression there was auditioned by Maestro Herbert von Karajan, leading to his 1953 La Scala Milano debut as Don Ottavio from Mozart's "Don Giovanni" as well as to a recording of Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov" in which he sang the role of Dimitri. Major success was rapid and in 1954 he began a lifelong association with the Paris Opera, bowing as the title lead of Weber's "Oberon" and soon singing the role that would probably be considered his signature, the title redeemed lost soul of Gounod's "Faust". He was to receive multiple invitations, among them one from Covent Garden where he bowed as the lecherous Duke in Verdi's "Rigoletto", while in the studio he was kept busy by EMI's legendary producer Walter Legge, his projects including "Faust", Bach's B-minor Mass, and the role of Pinkerton from Puccini's "Madame Butterfly". Mr. Gedda made his 1957 American debut with the Pittsburg Opera as Faust and on November 1st of that year sang the same role in his Metropolitan Opera bow, then was to appear there 367 times up thru November 11, 1973, numbering among his assignments the Duke, Pinkerton, Don Ottavio, Dimitri, Anatol from Samuel Barber's "Vanessa", Des Grieux of Massenet's "Manon", Alfredo in Verdi's "La Traviata", Rodolfo from Puccini's "La Boheme", Lenski in Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin", the dimwit Nemorino from Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore", the bullfighter Don Jose of Bizet's "Carmen", Edgardo in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor", and the title leads of Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann", Berlioz' "Benvenuto Cellini", and Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette". His honors were many and included Sweden's 1976 Gold Medal for the Promotion of the Art of Music, 1994 designation as Honourary Member of London's Royal Academy of Music, and in 2010 France's Legion of Honour; his longevity was remarkable and his retirement gradual, with him continuing to give recitals and to perform small roles onstage as late as 1997, while in the studio he preserved the Emperor Altoum from Puccini's "Turandot" in 2001 and the High Priest of Mozart's "Idomeneo" in 2003. Mr. Gedda lived out his days in Switzerland and died of the effects of advanced age with most of his massive recorded legacy remaining available.
Bio by: Bob Hufford