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Nicolai Gedda in Opera
CD 1
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)

Les Pêcheurs de Perles
1. Je crois entendre encore [3:35]
Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893)

2. Le ciel rayonne … est-elle jeune et belle? [8:17]
3. Mon Coeur est plein … ah! La voici! C’est elle! [13:33]
Roméo et Juliette
4. L’amour! L’amour! … Ah! Lève-toi, soleil! [4:41]
5. Salut! Demeure chaste et pure [5:40]
6. Il était temps … Il se fait tard [15:09]
7. Va-t-en! … Mon Coeur est pénétré … Alerte! [13:34]
Jules MASSENET (1842 – 1912)

8. Instant charmant … En ferment les yeux [3:21]
9. Pourquoi me réveiller [2:54]
François AUBER (1782 – 1871)

La muette de Portici
10. Du pauvre seul ami fidèle [4:32]
CD 2
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839 – 1881)

Boris Godunov
1. Polish scene, duet Dmitri and Marina [17:53]
Mikhail GLINKA (1804 – 1857)

Ruslan I Lyudmila
2. Excerpt from Introduction Act I [4:39]
Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)

Eugene Onegin
3. Faint echo of my youth [6:21]
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812 – 1883)

4. Ach, so fromm [3:26]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)

5. Una furtiva lagrima [4:03]
La favorita
6. Favorita del Re! … Spirto gentil [5:22]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)

7. Ella mi fu rapita! … Parmi veder le lagrime [5:03]
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834 – 1886)

La Gioconda
8. Cielo e mar! [4:40]
Francesco CILEA (1866 – 1950)

9. E la solita storia [4:24]
Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)

Die lustige Witwe
10. Mein Freund, Vernuft … Wie eine Rosenknospe [6:17]
Das Land des Lächelns
11. Immer nur lächeln [4:31]
12. Dein ist mein ganzes Herz [3:34]
Nicolai Gedda (tenor)
Janette Vivalda (soprano)(CD 1 trs. 2, 3); Madeleine Ignal (mezzo), André Vessieres (baritone)(CD 1 tr 3); Victoria de los Angeles (soprano), Boris Christoff (bass)(CD 1 trs. 6, 7); Eugenia Zareska (mezzo)(CD 2 tr. 1); Janine Micheau (soprano), Rita Gorr (mezzo), Pierre Fromenty (baritone), Xavier Depraz (bass)(CD 2 tr 2); Emmy Loose (soprano) (CD 2 tr. 10); Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera (CD 1 tr. 1, 4, 8-10, CD 2 tr. 3-9), Otto Ackermann (CD 2 tr. 10-12); Orchestre de la Societé des Concerts du Conservatoire/André Cluytens (CD 1 tr. 2, 3); Orchestre du Thêatre National de l’Opera/André Cluytens (CD 1 tr. 5-7), Louis Fourestier (CD 2 tr. 2); Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française/Issay Dobrowen (CD 2 tr. 1)
rec. CD 1: tr. 1, 4, 8-10 April 1953, tr. 2-3 July 1954; CD 2: tr. 1 July 1952, tr. 2 June 1957, tr. 3-9 April 1953, tr. 10-12 November 1952

NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI 7943/44 [75:16 + 70:13]
Experience Classicsonline

This is an admirable 2 CD selection of Nicolai Gedda’s recordings from the mid 1950s; Nimbus have transferred the items from the original LPs. Regis issued a similar recital in 2005, but restricted to 1 CD, but in his Gramophone review John Steane was critical of the transfers. This new set from has the advantage of being more expansive and has fine transfers done by Nimbus.

The selection enables us to hear Gedda when he was at his freshest, combined with his strongly developed musical intelligence. Gedda did not have the most beautiful tenor voice of his generation, but he knew how to use it. This is shown in the opening item, Je crois entendre encore from Les Pecheurs de Perles, where Gedda combines a beautiful legato with a finely inflected vocal line to give us an aria that we never want to end. Judging by this disc he seems to have been at his best in quiet lyrical pieces. His account of Du pauvre seul ami fidele from La Muette de Portici is softly beautiful.

The first disc concentrates on French opera and Gounod gets the lion’s share with around 60 minutes of music. One of the frustrations of this set is that there is no detailed explanation about where the items came from. So you have to do some research; I am pretty certain that the two extracts from Faust come from the Cluytens complete recording with Victoria de Los Angeles as Marguerite, and the Mireille extracts from Cluytens’ complete recording with Janette Vivalda in the title role. We are treated to over 20 minutes of Mireille extracts including what seems to be a concerted, and overblown, finale. This highlights another drawback of the set: there are no texts and no details synopses so that you have no idea what is going on in Mireille unless you know the opera or do yet more research.

As regards Gedda’s companions on these extracts, De Los Angeles makes a charming Marguerite and Janette Vivalda has a typical French soprano voice - think Mady Mesplé - with a tight vibrato which makes for a distinctive and authentic account.

Gedda is on prime form, singing with a warm, golden voice and convincing you by artistry alone that this is music worth listening to. Personally I would rather have had less Gounod and a little more of some other French composers, but that is entirely down to personal taste.

In the excerpt from Massenet’s Werther you get the suspicion that Gedda needs to make quite an effort to give the voice the heft it needs at the climaxes. This is something which recurs in the long extract from Boris Goudonov - this is taken from Issay Dobrowen’s complete recording with Boris Christoff in the title role - where we get the Polish scene with the duet between Gedda’s Dmitri and Eugenia Zareska’s Marina. But this is a small complaint when confronted by the beauty and ardour of Gedda’s performance.

I would have liked to hear more from Glinka’s Ruslan I Lyudmila where we get only a short extract from Act 1. The final Russian item is Lensky’s aria from Act 2 of Yevgeny Onegin. This is taken from the 1953 recital under Alceo Galliera which was extensively mined for disc 1. For me Gedda remains one of the great Lenskys and this recording is a precious record of a fine role.

The Italian items are all beautifully taken. Gedda’s voice is warm without having the Mediterranean glow which is ideal in this repertoire. But few tenors had his intelligence and way with the voice so that his account of the familiar arias is undoubtedly welcome. Also, you can add to this the lesser known gems from Cilea’s L’Arlesiana and Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.

The set finishes with some extracts from Viennese operetta. This was repertoire at which Gedda excelled partly because he never takes the music for granted and performs it with all the seriousness it needs. The results make Lehár’s music seem greater and finer than it really is; performing operetta like this is almost a lost art.

Notwithstanding my complaints about the lack of documentation and texts, this is a highly recommendable recital. It gives us a vivid glimpse of one of the 20th century’s most versatile tenors.

Robert Hugill


see also review by Goran Forsling


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