Nicolai Gedda is just half Russian, on his father's side. He was born in Sweden and raised in Germany, but he sings Russian music like the proverbial native (an extremely talented one, to be sure).
The tenor did his stuff at the Kennedy Center Saturday night and did it beautifully. In songs by Tchaikovsky and arias of Napravnik, Tchaikovsky and Gretchaninoff, his voice ranged from the lightest caress to the most fervent determination, always exquisitely centered in the pitch and with just the minimum of vibrato needed for warmth.
Martin Katz's marvelous accompaniments provided all the setting he needed for each role assumed he so easily assumed.
The second half of the program brought the "Russian Camerata Singers" alias the "Russian Folk Singers" alias the "Russian Liturgical Folk Singers" to the stage. An American group of 40 men, they are conducted by George Margitich, who has the whole Serge Jaroff-Don Cossack Chorus routine down pat, even to the business of spending minutes giving each man his own private pitch. It was time wasted unfortunately since their singing pitch was abysmal and, in the long run, their only resemblance to the great Don Cossacks was a visual one.