Joseph Calleja | Biography


Joseph Calleja Künstlerbild c Simon Fowler
Joseph Calleja is already one of the most sought-after tenors on both sides of the Atlantic. His voice and stylishness regularly inspire comparisons to “legendary singers from earlier eras: Jussi Björling, Beniamino Gigli, even Enrico Caruso” (Associated Press).
Born in Malta in 1978, 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. Since then he has sung with virtually all the world’s leading opera companies.
Calleja made his North American 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. He made his Met debut in 2006 as the Duke in Rigoletto and has returned there regularly, including in the title role in Bartlett Sher’s new production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Further American appearances have included Rodolfo with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia and the Duke of Mantua for Washington Opera, and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor for Minnesota Opera.
He made his Covent Garden debut as the Duke of Mantua, and soon returned to sing Alfredo and Macduff. At the Vienna Staatsoper his roles have included Arturo in I puritani, Verdi’s Duke, Rodolfo, Alfredo and Nemorino, and the title role of Roberto Devereux. He sang Tebaldo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Konzerthaus in Vienna alongside Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca in performances recorded by Deutsche Grammophon and released in 2009. He has appeared with Zurich Opera as Verdi’s Duke, the role of his debuts with the Bavaria, Netherlands and Welsh National operas and the Deutsche Oper of Berlin. Audiences at Barcelona’s Liceu first saw him as Nemorino, and he debuted as Rodolfo at the Dresden Semperoper and Frankfurt Opera.
Calleja’s opera appearances in 2012 include Gounod’s Faust at the Met, Roberto Devereux, Rodolfo and the Duke of Mantua in Munich, Rodolfo at Covent Garden, and Pinkerton in Vienna. Among his concert engagements are a “Three Tenors” evening at Covent Garden with Plácido Domingo and Rolando Villazón, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz in Frankfurt, as well as galas in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Strasbourg, Eisenstadt, Malta, Munich, Berlin and Helsinki. Plans for 2013 already include Tebaldo andthe Dukein Munich, Rodolfo in Chicago, Un ballo in maschera in Frankfurt and Simon Boccanegra in Vienna.
Also in great demand as a concert artist, Calleja has toured throughout Germany in recitals and solo concerts, and with soprano Anna Netrebko. He has appeared at such festivals as Faenol (with Bryn Terfel), Salzburg and the BBC Proms, where he sang in the Verdi Requiem under Riccardo Chailly.
An exclusive Decca recording artist since 2003, Calleja’s first two albums of opera arias, The Golden Voice and Tenor Arias, captured wide 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 were designated Editor’s Choice in Gramophone, 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.” The Maltese Tenor, Calleja’s highly praised 2011 recording of favourite Italian and French arias, reached the second overall position in the German charts and debuted at number one in the US on the Billboard “Classical Traditional” chart. His new album – Be My Love, A Tribute to Mario Lanza – is planned for release in summer 2012.