OP1039. ALCESTE (in English), Live Performance, 11 Feb., 1961, w.Leinsdorf (not Adler) Cond. Eileen Farrell, Nicolai Gedda, Walter Cassel, etc. (Portugal) 2-Gala 100.569. Long out-of-print; Final copy! - 8712177026210
"At all times the rare quality of the genuine Brünnhilde voice deserves our equally sincere gratitude. ‘It was a funny career’, she says when the time comes for summing-up. And so (‘funny’ meaning ‘peculiar’) it was. Here was a great operatic voice for a long time not singing on the operatic stage at all. Then, although there probably did not exist a voice in the United States to match it in quality and amplitude, her début took place one afternoon in San Francisco and another four precious years of prime elapsed before she sang at the Metropolitan. She made 45 appearances in six roles and left the company after as many years. She found Bing’s managerial style and the atmosphere it produced uncongenial. And yet after retirement she would sometimes speak of the nostalgia, the smells, the grains of dust caught in the lights, the excitement as the curtain rose. And she ends her book with a line from a song from that non-classical world which was also home-ground: ‘All in all, it was worth it’. She adds, in characteristic tone (that American directness, with something of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath about it, that would have made Rudolf Bing wince): ‘Well – yes. It sure as hell was’. Suppose she had not said it herself: there would (sure as hell) have been a vast chorus of admirers to say it for her, augmented, one would hope, by a new generation who come to her afresh, hearing these recordings for the first time."
- John Steane
“Nicolai Gedda was born in Stockholm on 11 July 1925. His Russian father was a member of the Kuban Don Cossack Choir; his mother, whose maiden name he adopted professionally, was Swedish. As a boy, he was trained in Leipzig, where his father became choirmaster at the Russian Orthodox Church in 1928. The family returned to Stockholm in 1934, and Gedda sang in the local Russian church. After army service, work in a Stockholm bank, and singing lessons with Carl Martin Oehmann, he won the Christine Nilsson Singing Competition in 1950. He pursued further study at the Stockholm Conservatory where he was auditioned by EMI’s producer Walter Legge in 1952, who was bowled over by Gedda’s voice, musicianship and technique. Given that he spoke fluent Russian, Legge signed him on the spot to take on the role of Dmitri in his upcoming recording of BORIS GODUNOV, in spite of the fact that Gedda was yet to make his stage début - which followed at the Stockholm Opera the same year, as Chapelou in Adam’s LE POSTILLON DE LONGJUMEAU - to massive success. This began a lifelong association with EMI.
He went on to make his début at La Scala as Don Ottavio in the 1952-3 season, and at Orff’s request, created the rôle of the Bridegroom in his IL TRIONFO D’AFRODITE. In February 1954 he sang Huon in a new production of OBERON at the Paris Opéra, and the next year made his Covent Garden début as the Duke in RIGOLETTO. He sang regularly at the Metropolitan since 1956, creating Anatol in Barner’s VANESSA in 1958 and singing Kodana in the first American performance of Menotti’s LE DERNIER SAUVAGE in 1964. At the 1961 Holland Festival he sang Berlioz’s BENVENUTO CELLINI, a rôle he has made very much his own. He repeated it at Covent Garden in 1966, 1969 (when he recorded it) and 1976.
Gedda has over 100 recordings of opera, operetta, oratorio and lieder to his credit. A fine linguist, speaking and singing in seven languages, and with a large operatic and recital repertory, he also commands the range of vocal and idiomatic style for CELLINI and Pftizner’ s PALESTRINA, Tchaiovsky’s Herman and Fauré’s songs. He is considered to be one of the most versatile and gifted artists of his time. He now lives in retirement in Stockholm.”
“During his long career Walter Cassel sang 275 performances with the Metropolitan Opera and 126 with the New York City Opera and appeared with American companies in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and New Orleans, as well as the major companies of Vienna, Dusseldorf and elsewhere. When Birgit Nilsson made her acclaimed Met début in Wagner's TRISTAN in 1959, Mr. Cassel sang the role of Kurwenal. He was the composer's choice for the role of Horace Tabor when THE BALLAD OF BABY DOW was given its premiere in Central City, Colo., in 1956. Beverly Sills, who sang the first New York performances of the title role, one of her favorites, considered Mr. Cassel's portrayal was definitive. ‘Each time Horace died in Baby's arms’, Ms. Sills recalled in her 1987 autobiography, ‘I really did start crying’."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2000