February 10, 2007

La Boheme | Vienna State Opera, February 2007


21 February 2007

“Joseph Calleja, the Maltese tenor, took the State Opera by surprise: stepping in at the last minute for his indisposed colleague Rolando Villazón on Monday in Puccini’s “La Bohème”, and celebrating a major triumph […] The judgment of many people: “A voice that radiates even more lyricism than Villazón’s tenor”.



21 February 2007 

“VIENNA (SN). A shock for the audience at the Vienna State opera: not until just before the beginning of the “La Bohème” performance they discovered that public favorite Rolando Villazón would be dropping out. His voice was not in good shape. The cancellation was not certain until an hour and a half before curtain time. “Disgraceful!! Scandalous!! Money back!!” the infuriated opera lovers are reported to have yelled. After all, they had paid “enormously high ticket prices”. This was reported by APA (the Austrian Press Agency) on Tuesday. The audience had vented its anger in particular because of the information policy at the State Opera. From an artistic point of view they had nothing to be upset about: after all, Joseph Calleja was available. The singer from Malta – even though he stepped a bit into the background lately- still ranks among the top tenors in the world. The APA wrote euphorically: Calleja not only stepped in for his colleague, but he also “made us totally forget his existence for at least two and a half hours”.


21 February 2007

“Joseph Calleja, the substitute from Malta, who also sings leading roles, swiftly managed to allay the discontent. He was (along with Boaz Daniel as Marcello) the best thing on this evening. Calleja has a glorious, gratifyingly old-fashioned timbre, a terrific upper register and an ongoingly improving technique.” 


21 February 2007

“Calleja has an old­fashioned but captivating timbre. That certain something is there – it rises above all this turbulence because it is borne aloft on unavoidable spontaneity. As Rodolfo he effectively and cultivatedly provides the essential high passages….his sizable voice easily cuts through the orchestra.”


20 February 2007

“But it wouldn’t be the State Opera if a substitute had not been found “at the last minute” (cancellation: 6:00 P.M.). And it wouldn’t be the State Opera audience if they had not created a spectator-generated biotope of good-will for the aforementioned substitute. And this was the case here as well: Joseph Calleja, the 28-year-old Maltese tenor, put his heart and soul into his first aria as Rodolfo, and huge waves of epic applause came rolling in. But Calleja, who first raised his voice in song here in 2003 and has already released two area CD’s, has plenty of capital at his disposal. Certainly he cannot call the elasticity and the on-target accuracy of a Villazón his own, but he does have a powerful vocal apparatus at his command: with fulsome, untameable expressiveness, yet a round-sory vocal color – made to measure for Puccini’s full-hearted melodies.”



“When tenor Rolando Villazón dropped out of the long-awaited “La Bohème” performance at the State Opera he provoked voluble storms of protest. The main reason for the audience’s irritation was because they only found out about the change shortly before the performance. For all of this, Joseph Calleja provided a big surprise when he took over the role of Rodolfo in Franco Zeffirelli’s production and wound up being cheered as the sensation of the evening. The boos came somewhat hastily when the audience found out from an on­stage announcement that Villazón would not be singing. But this annoyance was largely directed at the information strategy at the State Opera. The excuse was that it had only been definite at 6:00 P.M. that the star tenor would not be appearing because of a sore throat. Still time enough to have informed the spectators sooner, the protesters claimed: “Disgrace – scandal – money back!”

When at least nobody left the hall during intermission, this was less attributable to the enormous cost of the tickets but rather to the fact that Calleja not only took over for his colleague but also gave a performance that made everyone forget the other tenor’s existence for at least two and a half hours. In true Puccini style, he radiated the kind of emotion that brought tears to the eyes, a voice, that reminded us of the great Italian tenors of yesteryear, and, first and foremost, rang out more expansively and lyrically than Villazón’s.

By contrast Ildikó Raimondi sounded scratchy as Musetta. She went for the shrill aspects at the cost of the music. There was no way to find out if this was because of her rather free interpretation of the role or if Villazón might possibly have given her his cold. Tamar Iveri as Mimì and Boaz Daniel as the painter Marcello were in better voice. The rest: solid, workmanlike performances, nobody outdid himself. From a theatrical point of view, Zeffirelli’s realistic but magnificently designed settings filled the stage excellently.

The – admittedly few – boos directed at conductor Claude Schnitzler were undeserved. He may have meant a bit too well with Puccini’s sentimental strudel dough, and rolled out the score a little too widely, but he proved he has a feel for the great arcs of tension. He coaxed a fulsome tone and a few highlights out of the orchestra. And the chorus also came across well-disposed and experienced. As of Tuesday morning, nobody at the State Opera was able to say when Villazón would be in good voice again.”

Die Presse, 20 February 2007

Joseph's Blog

May 16th, 2016

Quo Vadis Eurovision and other stories

Malta did not win the Eurovision but lo and behold the sun still rose and the island (the center of the known universe) still spun…

My two cents is that Ira Losco gave a really good performance and that the whole presentation was excellent. She shouldn’t have performed cause she is pregnant? Come off it – I have performed repeatedly with pregnant opera singers well into their 7th and 8th month of pregnancy and trust me when I say that rehearsing and performing for a full opera production is much more physically demanding than a couple of days at the Eurovision. Of course there are those who know much better than the undersigned and who went on to say that the presentation was a tad “camp”…oh the irony when one considers that the Eurovision is the campest of them all.

Meanwhile, this wouldn’t be Malta and the Eurovision wouldn’t be the Eurovision unless its politicized to the exhaustible hilt. The inevitable “mud slinging competition,” which we will see a lot of in the coming 22 months, ensued and even yours truly (inexplicably) ended up in the midst of the fray, in yet another “supernova” in a tea cup. The Eurovision suddenly became an interchangeable bullet to be used ad nauseam by both sides much like bitter parents who use their innocent children during disputes.  I have always found sycophants interesting, even amusing but they will not be getting the much desired Streisand effect from me, thank you very much. It is part of human nature after all to conjure conspiracies and we are not going to let the simple truth get in the way of some exciting and convenient fiction.

Speaking of “conjuring” is it me or is a company advertising real estate using a chap “connected” with the tragic and unnecessary death of an underage girl? It must be a clone or a”doppleganger”, otherwise this would be the epitome of bad taste and a 100 shades of wrong. Don’t get me wrong I am all for “second chances” and all of that but shouldn’t there be due process first? After all Lisa Marie didn’t get a second chance did she?