It is most welcome for me to welcome a Maltese tenor to the international scene and it is now pretty much certain that Joseph Calleja can be counted amongst the great lyrical tenors of our time. This recital definitely shows his capabilities and technical prowess on all fronts and the choice of pieces is also very apt to the splendid voice.
The arias from 'La Traviata' show a tenor in his absolute prime with 'De miei bollenti spiriti' particularly powerful and characterful. 'Ah la paterna mano' from 'Macbeth' is also very well sung with the Milan orchestra also in fine form under Chailly. What one really notices however, is the assuredness of voice and patent swagger that make Calleja into a force to be reckoned with especially in the 'Rigoletto' excerpts, just listen to this rip-roaring 'La donna e' mobile' for that effect. 'Questa o quella' is also ravishing in its example of Italianate majesty.
The recital then moves on to Donizetti with the exquisite aria, 'Quanto e' bella' from 'L'Elisir d'Amore', another tour de force for the impressive Calleja. The same must go for the 'Lucia' excerpts which are even more invigorating, especially 'Tomba degli avi miei', great stuff here!
Calleja decides to end his recital with three arias from verismo operas and here one is given a tantalizing idea of what the voice can now be taught to tackle. 'La dolcissima effigie' from Cilèa's 'Adriana Lecouvreur' is most exquisite whilst the emotional 'Lamento di Federico' from 'L'arlesiana' is also very well done. Finally the famous 'Addio fiorito asil' from Puccini's 'Madama Butterfly' and Calleja comes out with flying colours out of his first recital disc.
The disc also contains the texts to the arias and also, an intriguing essay cum interview by George Hall in which we take a peek at the character of this gentle giant. Joseph Calleja is surely now established as one of the finest tenors of his generation and will most certainly go on to much greater things. Andiam, Incomminciate!
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech