Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy Birthday: Joseph Calleja

Joseph Calleja is already one of the tenors most sought after by leading opera houses on both sides of the Atlantic. His voice has routinely inspired comparisons to “legendary singers from earlier eras: Jussi Björling, Beniamino Gigli, even Enrico Caruso” (Associated Press). The Maltese tenor’s recent successes include role debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, where he “gave his all, singing with ardor, stamina, and poignant vocal colorings and winning a rousing ovation” in the title role of Bartlett Sher’s new Tales of Hoffmann (New York Times), and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where, almost “steal[ing] the show” (Independent), he proved himself a “thrilling Adorno” (Financial Times) opposite Plácido Domingo in Simon Boccanegra.

Born in Malta in 1978, Joseph Calleja began singing at the age of 16, training with Maltese tenor Paul Asciak. He made his professional debut in Malta in 1997 as Macduff in Macbeth and won an award in the Belvedere Hans Gabor competition later that year. He went on to win the 1998 Caruso Competition in Milan and was a prizewinner in Domingo’s Operalia the following year.

Calleja made his United States debut as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi at the Spoleto Festival. He appeared as Macduff with Seattle Opera and debuted with both Los Angeles Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago as Alfredo in La traviata. At the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he has sung Verdi’s Duke, Macduff, and Nemorino. Further U.S. appearances include Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, the Duke of Mantua for Washington Opera, and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor for Minnesota Opera. In 2000, when he was a mere 22 years old, he made his Canadian debut in Toronto as Rodolfo in La bohème.

An exclusive Decca recording artist since 2003, his first two albums of opera arias, The Golden Voice and Tenor Arias, captured critical and popular acclaim, and prompted Riccardo Chailly, with whom he collaborated on the first recording, to comment, “For some time I have not heard such a talent at this young age, with a sound harking back to a quality I thought we had long lost.” Both albums won Editor’s Choice in Gramophone magazine, and the Observer described Calleja as “a rare discovery, evoking memories from Caruso to Domingo with the suppleness of his tone and the expressive, highly individual lyricism he brings to even the most familiar material.” [Source]

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