Home » Artists » Verdi

Joseph Calleja: Bio

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), Maltese-born Joseph Calleja has quickly become one of the most acclaimed and sought-after tenors today. His expansive discography and frequent appearances on the world's leading opera and concert stages prompted NPR to hail him as "arguably today's finest lyric tenor," and led to his being voted Gramophonemagazine's 2012 Artist of the Year. A Grammy-nominated recording artist for Decca Classics, he has released five solo albums for the label.

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 Plácido 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 the world's great opera companies.


Joseph Calleja's 2016-17 season is highlighted by new productions in London, Chicago, Salzburg and Grange Park, alongside returns to Munich, Berlin and New York. The Maltese tenor begins his calendar of performances with a new production of Norma at the Royal Opera House in London and then returns to the Bayerische Staatsoper's well-known production of Boito's Mefistofele, singing Faust opposite Erwin Schrott in the title role. Joseph then returns with Rodolfo in La Bohème for Deutsche Oper Berlin. A further highlight of his season 16/17 is his return to the Grange Park Opera, where he will be portraying Caravadossi in Puccini's Tosca for the first time.


In the United States, Joseph graces the stages of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera. In the windy city, he sings Don José in a new production of Carmen. At the Met Joseph reprises his acclaimed account of the Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto, alongside Olga Peretyatko as Gilda.


Highlights from recent operatic seasons include the title characters in new productions of Faust and Les Contes d'Hoffmann at the Metropolitan Opera; Alfredo in La traviata opposite Renée Fleming, Adorno in Simone Boccanegra alongside Plácido Domingo, and another turn in the title role of Faust at Covent Garden; new productions of La bohème, opposite Anna Netrebko, and La traviata at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Maria Stuarda alongside Joyce DiDonato in concerts with the Deutsche Oper Berlin; and a new staging of Rigoletto at the Bavarian State Opera. He made his role debut as Riccardo in a new treatment of Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London and as Don José in Carmen at Oper Frankfurt in a staging of Barrie Kosky and portrayed Ruggero in Rolando Villazón's staging of Puccini's La rondine at Deutsche Oper Berlin.


Calleja appears extensively in concert throughout the world, singing with leading orchestras at summer festivals, including Salzburg, 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 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. After co-headlining 2012's Last Night of the BBC Proms, Calleja returned to the London festival in 2013 for a gala performance at the Royal Albert Hall and an open-air concert marking the Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park. As a recitalist, he has performed in Japan and throughout Europe.


As an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist since 2003, the tenor boasts an extensive discography that includes complete operas and concert repertoire, as well as five solo albums: The Golden Voice, Tenor Arias, The Maltese Tenor, Be My Love: A Tribute to Mario Lanza, and Amore. His 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 earned Calleja his first Grammy nomination. His rendition of the Verdi aria "La donna è mobile" is featured on the soundtrack of No Reservations, a 2007 motion picture starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. He made his Hollywood debut in 2014's The Immigrant, in which he portrays the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso in a cast with Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner.


Calleja has been profiled in New York's Wall Street Journal and London's Times, among other newspapers, and has graced covers of magazines such as Opera News. An increasingly frequent face on television, he has appeared on such programs as CNN's Business Traveller, BBC Breakfast, and the Andrew Marr Show, and been featured in numerous internationally televised concerts. In 2013, he made his U.S. network television debut performing in a Kennedy Center Honors tribute to preeminent American soprano Martina Arroyo on CBS.


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. Calleja is the recipient of the 2014 International Opera Awards' Readers' Award.

1 Verdi: Aida / Act 1 - 'Se quel guerrier io fossi!..Celeste Aida'  
2 Verdi: Il Trovatore / Act 3 - 'Ah sI ben mio'  
3 Verdi: Il Trovatore / Act 3 - 'Di quella pira'  
4 Verdi: La forza del destino / Act 3 - 'La vita e inferno'  
5 Verdi: La forza del destino / Act 4 - 'Invano Alvaro'  
6 Verdi: Don Carlo / Act 2 - 'E lui! desso! L'infante!'  
7 Verdi: Otello / Act 1 - 'Gia nella notte densa'  
8 Verdi: Otello / Act 2 - 'Oh! Mostruosa colpa!... S?, per ciel marmoreo, giuro!'  
9 Verdi: Otello / Act 3 - 'Dio! mi potevi scagliar tutti i mali'  
10 Verdi: Otello / Act 4 - 'Niun mi tema'  
Joseph Calleja Concert 2012

Joseph Calleja, one of the world's leading tenors, returns with his new album ‘Verdi' – due for release on Decca Classics on 2nd February 2018. The album sees Calleja explore the light and dark in Verdi's heroic tenor roles and features guest appearances from soprano Angela Gheorghiu and baritone Vittorio Vitelli.

Verdi has a special place in Calleja's heart, having made his debut as Macduff in Verdi's Macbeth when he was just 19. It is his first new album in six years – his last solo album ‘Amore' was released in September 2013 and he was also part of a 2013 recording of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. However, this new album marks a significant step into Verdi repertoire for Calleja, as he tackles new roles which he has yet to play on stage.

Crossover Media Projects with: Joseph Calleja