“Only one lyric tenor on the scene today has the honeyed tone and ingratiating style to make comparisons to Pavarotti and Gigli seem serious, and it is Calleja, the man from Malta, who…is now maturing into an artist of the first rank.” -New Yorker
Blessed with a golden age voice that routinely inspires comparisons to “legendary singers from earlier eras: Jussi Björling, Beniamino Gigli, even Enrico Caruso” (Associated Press), the Maltese-born Joseph Calleja has quickly become one of the most acclaimed and sought-after tenors today. At only 35 years of age, he has sung an impressive 28 principal roles. His frequent appearances on the world’s leading opera and concert stages as well as his expansive discography have prompted NPR to hail him as “arguably today’s finest lyric tenor” and led to him being voted Gramophone magazine’s 2012 Artist of the Year. A Grammy-nominated recording artist for Decca Classics, Calleja releases his fifth solo album for the label, Amore, later this year.
Calleja was only 19 when he made his operatic debut as Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth at the Astra Theatre in Malta, shortly before winning an award in the Hans Gabor Belvedere competition that launched his international career. He went on to win the 1998 Caruso Competition in Milan and was a prize winner in Domingo’s Operalia in 1999, the year of his U.S. debut at the Spoleto Festival. Since then Calleja has gone on to appear with most of the world’s great opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, Dresden’s Semperoper, Frankfurt Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera. Among the tenor’s signature roles are Verdi’s Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto and Alfredo in La traviata; Puccini’s Rodolfo in La bohème and B. F. Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly; Donizetti’s Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, and Leicester in Maria Stuarda; the title characters of Gounod’s Faust and Roméo et Juliette; Bellini’s Tebaldo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi; and Mozart’s Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Calleja also created the role of Lind in the world premiere production of Azio Corghi’s Isabella at Pesaro’s Rossini Opera Festival.
Joseph Calleja appears extensively in concert throughout the world, singing with leading orchestras, at summer festivals including Salzburg and London’s BBC Proms, and in outdoor concerts in front of tens of thousands of people in Malta, Paris, and Munich. He was the featured soloist at the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Stockholm, was selected by the Maltese President to perform a private concert for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and toured Germany with soprano Anna Netrebko. As a recitalist, he has appeared in Japan and throughout Europe.
Since making his house debut in Rigoletto in 2006, Calleja has become a mainstay at the Metropolitan Opera. His numerous Met engagements include the title role in Des McAnuff’s new production of Faust in 2011-12, and his role debut as the title character of Tales of Hoffmann in a new staging by Bartlett Sher. Verdi’s Duke of Mantua was the vehicle for Calleja’s debut at Covent Garden, where his many subsequent appearances include Alfredo in La traviata opposite Renée Fleming and Adorno in Simon Boccanegra alongside Plácido Domingo. At the Vienna Staatsoper, in addition to his celebrated Verdi roles, Calleja has portrayed Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux and Nemorino, Puccini’s Pinkerton, and Bellini’s Elvino in La sonnambula and Arturo in I puritani. A fixture at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, he most recently starred in a new staging of Rigoletto last season.
After co-headlining 2012’s Last Night of the BBC Proms, Calleja returns to the London festival this September for two performances to close out the summer. First he performs a gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate Verdi’s 200th birthday, and then marks the Last Night of the Proms in an open-air concert at Hyde Park, where he joins violinist Nigel Kennedy and Bryan Ferry. The tenor’s other notable concert engagements over the coming season include Verdi arias with Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France at Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Elysées; a program of arias with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall; a gala concert at Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Concert Hall; and performances of Verdi’s Requiem with Antonio Pappano leading the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in London and Birmingham. On the opera stage, the coming season sees Joseph Calleja return to the Lyric Opera of Chicago in a new production of La traviata and to the Metropolitan Opera for reprise performances as Rodolfo in Franco Zeffirelli’s classic production of La bohème. In Europe, he sings Adorno opposite Thomas Hampson in Simon Boccanegra at the Vienna State Opera; heads a stellar cast that includes Netrebko, Simon Keenlyside, and Bryn Terfel in Faust at Covent Garden; and portrays five leading men at the Bavarian State Opera: the Duke, Hoffmann, Pinkerton, Alfredo, and Macduff. In addition to his upcoming solo disc, Amore, Decca will also release a full-length opera recording of Calleja and Hampson in Simon Boccanegra to coincide with their Vienna appearances. In his forthcoming Hollywood debut, Calleja portrays legendary tenor Enrico Caruso in The Immigrant, a new film starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner.
As an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist since 2003, Calleja boasts an extensive discography that includes complete operas and concert repertoire, as well as four solo albums: The Golden Voice, Tenor Arias, The Maltese Tenor, and Be My Love: A Tribute to Mario Lanza. The tenor’s videography enjoys similar success, and it was his portrayal of Alfredo in the Royal Opera House’s DVD/Blu-ray release of La traviata, in which he co-stars with Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson, that won Calleja his first Grammy nomination. Calleja’s rendition of the Verdi aria “La donna é mobile” is featured on the soundtrack of No Reservations, a 2007 motion picture starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart.
The tenor has been profiled in New York’s Wall Street Journal and London’s Times, among other places, and has graced covers of magazines such as Opera News. An increasingly frequent face on television, Calleja has made appearances on programs including CNN’s Business Traveller, BBC Breakfast, and the Andrew Marr Show and been featured as part of numerous internationally televised concerts.
Born in Malta in 1978, Joseph Calleja began singing at the age of 16, first in his church choir, and then in formal training with Maltese tenor Paul Asciak. One of his native land’s biggest celebrities, Calleja was selected to serve as Malta’s first cultural ambassador in 2012, and earlier this year he was named a brand ambassador for Air Malta. Calleja recently teamed up with Malta’s Bank of Valletta to form the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation, which will serve to help children and families in need.