On This Day: Joseph Calleja Celebrates His 20th Anniversary On Stage

By Francisco Salazar

Joseph Calleja is one of today’s leading tenors in the opera world as his voice is recognized for having a Golden Age timbre. On Jan. 22 Calleja is not only celebrating his 39th birthday, but he is also celebrating 20 years since his professional debut. As a result, OperaWire takes a look at 20 facts about Joseph Calleja.

  1. The tenor was born on Jan. 22, 1978 in Attard, Malta.
  2. He began to sing at the age of 16 when he was discovered by Brian Cefai.
  3. Calleja made his professional debut at the age of 19 at the Astra Theatre in Gozo in the role of Macduff in Verdi’s “Macbeth.”
  4. In 1998 he won the Caruso Competition in Milan
  5. In 1999 he won the Operalia Competition alongside Rolando Villazón and Giuseppe Filianoti.
  6. He made his U.S Debut at the Spoleto Festival in 1999.
  7. Calleja made his debut in 2002 at the Royal Opera as the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and has since sung seven more roles and also appeared at the Operalia Winners Concert.
  8. Calleja made his Vienna State Opera debut in 2003 as Elvino in Bellini’s “La Sonnambula.” He has performed a total of nine roles with the company.
  9. In 2006 the tenor made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” He has performed the role with the company 16 times and will also perform it another three times this season.
  10. In 2009, Calleja began a series of annual concerts at the Granaries in Malta.
  11. Considered to be one of the biggest celebrities in his country, 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.
  12. Calleja appeared at the Kennedy Centers Honors awards to pay tribute to Martina Arroyo in 2013. It marked his U.S Network debut.
  13. He is the recipient of the 2014 International Opera Awards’ Readers’ Award.
  14. Calleja is an exclusive artist for Decca Classics and has recorded five solo albums for the company. He is also featured on Renee Fleming’s “By Request” album and in a complete recording of Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra.”
  15. Has been featured on three Live in HD broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera including Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffman,” Verdi’s “Macbeth” and Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”
  16. He is featured on 5 complete opera DVDs including Donizetti’s “Maria Stuarda,” Verdi’s “La Traviata” and “Simon Boccanegra,” “Macbeth” and Boito’s “Mefistofele.”
  17. Calleja is featured on the soundtrack to the 2007 film “No Reservations” with Aaron Eckhart and Catherin Zeta-Jones.
  18. Joseph Calleja appears as Enrico Caruso in James Gray’s “The Immigrant.” The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner.
  19. In the 2016-17 Season Calleja will make role debuts in Bizet’s “Carmen,” Puccini’s “Tosca” and Verdi’s “I Due Foscari.” He also made his role debut as Pollione in Bellini’s “Norma.”
  20. He will open the Metropolitan Opera’s 2017-18 Season in Bellini’s “Norma.” It marks his first opening night with the company.



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