Nicolai Gedda in Concert, #2

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Elisir (2), Land des Lächelns (2), Onegin, Paganini, Giuditta, Lustige Witwe. (1985). 33m. Color.

This is an example of a modern, idiosyncratic technique, one not that easy to watch close up. But Gedda sings magnificently repertory of which he is a master. —Bert Wechsler

Of all the leading world-class lyric tenors of the past half century, Nicolai Gedda can certainly lay claim to being the most versatile. If, as Irving Kolodin once stated about Björling, the world had to come to terms with the fact that the leading Italian tenor might well be a Swede, then audiences of two decades later readily accepted that the leading French tenor, the leading German tenor (with Wunderlich), the leading operetta tenor and the leading post-Kozlovsky Russian tenor was a Swede.

He was also among the very top Italian lyric tenors of the day, a Bach and Handel specialist of note, the leading post-Björling interpreter of the Scandinavian song repertoires and arguably the finest Mozart tenor since Patzak and Tauber. He was a notable exponent of French and German song although he indulged in the latter only occasionally and not nearly to the extent that his abilities warranted.

Nemorino has been one of Gedda’s most successful Italian roles over the years. Here his “Quanto è bella” at first is a bit choppy, but the artist’s involvement with the music is so great that at one point he actually starts to bounce up and down to its rhythms. “Una furtiva lagrima” is perhaps too outgoing and good-natured in this interpretation, so that he hardly comes across as a forlorn lover. His rendition of Lenski’s aria may not be nearly so introspective as Kozlovsky’s or Lemeshev’s, but it still remains the standard interpretation for the nearly four decades since those great Russians ceased singing on the stage. In any case, introspection is probably not a part of Gedda’s vocal or interpretative arsenal–he is simply too outgoing.

The remainder of the concert is devoted to Lehár and is, without exception, wonderful. Gedda, the odds-on favorite for the King-of-Operetta title relinquished by Tauber at his untimely death, sings operetta with all the joy of his predecessor if not necessarily all the warmth. At age 60 Gedda still has the brightness of tone and effervescence of a newcomer. His top notes ring like few others’ in our time, and he is totally at one with every selection and with his audience.

From Land des Lächelns we get “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” and “Von Apfelblüten.” Both are terrific, and the latter ends with a soft but full-toned top note that would be the envy of a tenor half his age. “Da geh’ ich zu Maxim” from Lustige Witwe and “Gern hab’ ich die Frau’n geküsst” from Paganini are similarly well done, but the highlight of the operetta section is his “Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert” from Giuditta. In addition to tearing the roof off with those top notes, it is almost embarrassing to watch a singer of his years so enjoying himself! Most highly recommended. —Joe Pearce, President of The Vocal Record Collector’s Society