Boito: Mefistofele

Joseph Calleja, René Pape, Kristine Opolais
Bayerische Staatsoper (new production)
Omer Meir Wellber, conductor
Roland Schwab, director
Int. release: November 18, 2016

“In the part of Faust, Joseph Calleja comes across as a decent young man who is being gravely led astray by the influence of the diabolical Mefistofele. Through most of the opera Faust is wearing a business suit and white shirt which give him an air of respectability. Calleja has several arias and especially distinguished is his act one aria Dai campi, dai prati tenderly singing of the compassion and integrity of humankind. I also savour his act four aria Forma ideal purissima affectionately telling Elena that she is his perfect woman … the Maltese tenor is in fine bright voice and is noticeably carefully expressing his texts. There is an appealing sweet edge to Calleja’s timbre and he seems particularly comfortable in his top register.”

Michael Cookson – MusicWeb International

“The performances of all the principal members, chorus, ballet dancers, conductor and orchestra are first rate. None of the principals are weak in any way … Joseph Calleja as Faust is also in good vocal fettle … he makes the most of his role and is well cast.”

Jim Westhead – MusicWeb International

“The DVD does record one great thing, and a very great thing it is: Joseph Calleja‘s Faust. Here are ease, shimmer, beautifully sculpted phrasing, all in the service of expression and meaning … when the singing is on this level, it matters less.

I note the date, and I suppose it is not a reach that Calleja’s mind was occupied with things this opera and this production touch upon: youth and age, lessons and wisdom, brotherhood and love. Earlier in the year, his countryman and only teacher, the fine mid-20th-century Maltese tenor Paul Asciak, had died at 92. Calleja and Asciak had been student and mentor from the time Calleja was 15. Even in advanced age, Asciak would travel far to see his star pupil and friend whenever he could, as the younger tenor established an international career.

In 2012, Asciak wrote, “I join the proud people of my native island home, which has already produced other internationally recognized singers, in the hope of the fulfillment of the dream of one day having one of the world’s leading tenors hailing from our land. From the quality of Calleja’s singing in [the Decca album Be My Love] it seems we are not far from achieving this.” Calleja’s Faust has the quality of a promise remembered and kept, the voice glowing and flickering like an eternal flame lovingly tended. Asciak would again have had reason to be very proud.

The productions Herr Bachler’s house presents, at their best, are reasons to keep going to the opera. Performances such as Calleja’s Faust count for even more. They are reasons to keep going.”

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?