“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.

Joseph's Blog

September 10th, 2014

A summer festival in Malta?

I was more than a bit amused to read some negative reporting re the fact that the government sponsored my summer concert. Hundreds of thousand of euros, if not millions, were thrown around  and some went as far to state that I was “on the take” and part of the hundreds of thousands were directed to my pocket. The claims are so ridiculous and unfounded that, to date,  I didn’t even bother to point it out. For those unfamiliar with our island, Malta is ferociously bi-partisan it is inevitable that, for some at least,  everything has to be turned into a political football. Others simply measure by their own yardstick. For the record I got no remuneration by the government, whether directly or indirectly, in the deal they made with NNG promotions nor form part of same company.  To my knowledge, the funds are wisely spent on the filming, editing and international distribution of the concert creating an incredible advert for Malta. Should the government sponsor such initiatives? Of course it should- as what better advertisement can Malta have to increase the much coveted “cultural tourism”?

In Malta we have the curse but also the blessing of being very small. So small in fact that you can walk from one end of the island to the other in less than a day. And what a walk that would be. Despite our small size, our location – smack in the middle of the Mare Nostrum  – made sure that every major civilization left its mark throughout our 7000 year history. Natural resources are pretty much non existent and even for fresh water we have to turn to the sea. Still our island nation enjoys the most important resource of all – its people. Once you remove our petty and constant bickering which (surprise surprise) usually revolve around politics, the Maltese are a force to be reckoned with and a nation that shy away from challenges we are not. Most of us are at least bi-lingual , hard working, resourceful and good hearted. Talent is also another virtue that this island has and never before  did we have so many young budding artists on the verge of an international career. When I was studying to be an opera singer there was literally no one else on the scene on a professional level bar Miriam Gauci. Nowadays we have close to a dozen. Clare Ghigo, Nico Darmanin, Cliff Zammit Stevens, Joseph Lia, Nicola Said and Marvic Monreal are already chasing their dream in conservatories and colleges abroad. Nico Darmanin in particular is already performing professionally and has already debuted at the Royal Opera House. This from a nation of 400,000.

Indeed it is a time of renaissance for at least classical music in Malta. So many festivals whether in Gozo, the place of my very first performances,  or Valletta. In fact it is time that the government notices the elephant in the room and launch THE proper summer festival our island deserves. The raw material is in place already it just needs to be coordinated and a month long festival is really within our grasp and no there is no multi million euro outlay as we have the necessary infrastructure in place already.  Our airport and airline are top notch and hotels comparable to the best on mainland Europe. All that is needed is that nudge, the concentration of the laser beam, the proverbial pulling of the same rope and Malta could host a festival that would rival any in Europe. This government has won with such a majority that it should really use that majority to implement changes that no one had the courage to do before. Redundant boards and committees should be restructured or removed altogether. Competent people should be given executive power to effect necessary changes and not waste their time and energies navigating the endless meanders of bureaucracy caused by useless boards.


Last but not least lets give Malta its cultural home back and move ahead with a National Theatre/auditorium. I hear there are great plans for the MCC, now is the time to move forward and turn these plans into reality. We have so much to offer and it would be a great sin to miss out on this opportunity. I dream of the day when Valletta will turn into a major and globally renowned  artistic hub. Believe me when I tell you that we have what it takes.