OP2202. VANESSA (Samuel Barber), recorded 1958, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Eleanor Steber, Rosalind Elias, Regina Resnik, Nicolai Gedda, Giorgio Tozzi, etc. (All-CREATOR cast, 15 January, 1958, Metropolitan Opera House, NYC). 2-RCA 7899, Slipcase Edition, w.Libretto-Brochure. Specially priced. - 078635789928
“Strangely enough, I don’t think I really enjoyed VANESSA with my usual relish that season. I had learned it so fast that I was never quite as sure of it that first year as I was of my other rôles. I was always conscious of small mistakes, and that bothered me. The recording, on the other hand, is musically perfect. Nevertheless, I loved the opera. I don’t think I could have done what I did if I hadn’t adored the work itself. It not only seemed to have been written for me. It was me!....Anyone who was backstage during the first and subsequent performances of VANESSA knows that I came off the stage after that big first act so near to collapse that the story got around that I had fainted….VANESSA took absolutely everything out of me. Until then, I’d always been able to keep something in reserve. I had always been able to do my rôles and have a little bit left over. But as Vanessa, I spent everything.”
- Eleanor Steber, ELEANOR STEBER, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, p.193
“Steber was one of the most important sopranos in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s, with a sweet and yet full voice and outstanding versatility. Her recitals were practically vocal pentathlons for their wide range of styles and vocal demands, and the day she sang Desdemona in Verdi's OTELLO for a Met matinee and Fiordiligi in Mozart's COSÌ FAN TUTTE that evening is still legendary She is perhaps most famous for her creation of the title rôle in Samuel Barber's VANESSA (actually as a substitute for Sena Jurinac), and for commissioning his ‘Knoxville: Summer of 1915’.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
“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.”