March 30, 2015

Tracheitis – a singer’s worst nightmare?

It is without doubt that trauma to the vocal folds is a singer’s worst nightmare. Burst veins, nodules etc. is really bad news and can end a career if not treated with utmost care. Thankfully I never had to deal with the latter but what I had to face, very recently, was a terrible influenza which left me with tracheitis, which is a much dreaded inflammation of the wind pipe. My excellent doctor put me on antibiotics which dealt with the bacterial infection but what can one do with the irritation that the infection leaves behind in the trachea? Not much I am afraid. Steam inhalations and pulmicort (inhaled steroid)  will help control the cough but it can have the side effect of leaving you with candida (fungus) in your larynx that will also impair your singing. Loads of alcohol and caffeine free fluids is strongly recommended and cold air is a definite “no no” during recovery.  Humidifying the air where you live is also imperative especially in the bedroom.

In the end it boils down to keeping the immune system as  healthy as possible. Probiotics, good sleep and exercise will do wonders to prevent sickness or to speed up recovery if one succumbs to a bug.

Last but not least NEVER self medicate and always seek out the opinion of a trusted doctor!


  1. Christine Marsden

    During the Autumn (2014)in fact on Oct 15th I caught a virus which went straight to my throat and I was unable to sing for 8 weeks! I have never coughed so much (a cough which was challenging to the pelvic floor muscles!!) and was convinced that I would never sing again. After Christmas it slowly cleared up and I tried out my voice. Miraculously I found top notes that I had not sung for ages!! I have no idea why after being convinced that I had permanently destroyed my vocal chords!!I did the steam, alcohol and hydration with a will!! Best of Wishes – Christine Marsden Devon UK

  2. Alilela

    I saw you two Thursday’s ago singing in Lucia at the Met. I can’t believe you were battling anything! We were so grateful that you sang so soon after the flu. You are my FAVORITE tenor and it was such a delight to hear you in person. Thank you for such a dynamic and beautiful performance. I’m nine months pregnant and had to drive four hours to see you- a bit of a swan song because I don’t know when I’ll get back to the Met now that I’ll have a baby- and you made it totally worth it. Keep taking care of yourself. You are an operatic treasure.

  3. Just saw you in Lucia…twice.

    Even the first night, you controlled everything so well and were the shining bit in that performance.

    Second time you were better, but still careful

    Your voice was glorious! Thank you.

    Now…get better, I’ve had tickets for your Boston, Jordan Hall recital for almost a year!!!

  4. Mario

    Think long term.

    Look after yourself. Stories abound of great tenors whose voice struggled in their latter years because of too much work and inappropriate repertiore. I saw you at the royal festival hall last year and, as on the proms night, I couldn’t help feeling a proud as a maltese doc living in England.

  5. kiki posthuma

    A clear story about influenza and tracheitis. I hope by now you are recoverd and feeling well again. Recovery is not only medication but also healthy food, fysical exercise but most of all patience. We have to give our body time to recover, that isn’t easy in a hastily world.N’joy your singing again mr Joseph Calleja

  6. Pulmicort is usually a steroid called budesonide. Although a very effective anti-inflammatory, it is one of the worst for causing hoarseness. This can be manageable if it is a short term prescription, but it caused terrible problems for me when it was prescribed long term for asthma. There is a newer steroid called ciclesonide – available under the name Alvesco that doesn’t seem to have anything like the candida side effects. It’s completely changed my asthma without any hoarseness, and I’ve heard similar from other singers. If you do ever need a steroid anti-inflammatory again, it may be worth asking your doctor.

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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?