Singer Joseph Calleja was born in Malta in 1978 and started singing at the age of sixteen: first in a church choir, then taking lessons with Maltese tenor Paul Asciak.
“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” – such praise is used by critics when talking about Calleja, who has been compared to Jussi Björling and even Enrico Caruso.
Calleja has become one of the most famous tenors of our day. In 2012, Gramophone magazine named him Artist of the Year, and in 2016 he received an Opera News award. Calleja’s recordings (released by Decca Classics) have been nominated for multiple Grammys.
Calleja made his opera debut at the age of nineteen as Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth. This performance took place at Malta’s Astra Theatre, shortly before his win at the Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, which launched his international career. In 1998, he won the Caruso Competition in Milan, and a year later he won an award at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia. That same year, he made his debut in the US at the Spoleto Festival, and since that time he has performed at all the world’s most significant opera houses. He has also toured countless European and Japanese cities with concert programmes.
Calleja is routinely asked to collaborate with the world’s best orchestras and festivals including Salzburg and the BBC Proms. He has had the pleasure of singing in open-air concerts in Malta, Paris and Munich, where the number of audience members reached into the tens of thousands.
Since 2003, Calleja has been an exclusive Decca Classics artist. His discography includes both opera and solo repertoire. The Royal Opera House’s DVD/Blu-ray release of La Traviata earned him a Grammy nomination. He has even made his Hollywood debut as Enrico Caruso in James Gray’s 2014 film The Immigrant. In 2013, his solo album Amore featured a Latvian musician, the accordionist Ksenija Sidorova.
During the 2018/19 season, Calleja performed as Rodolfo (Luisa Miller) at the Hamburg State Opera, Caravadossi (Tosca) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and at the renowned Festival in Aix-en-Provence, Pollione (Norma) and Don José (Carmen) at the Bavarian State Opera, Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor) and Don José at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, as well as Duca (Rigoletto) at the Vienna State Opera. He gave his solo recital debut at the Vienna State Opera and sang concerts in Denmark, Lithuania, Florida, at the Budapest Spring Festival, at the BBC Proms and in Wimbledon. In previous seasons, the singer has performed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Faust, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, La Traviata, Simone Boccanegra, Norma), Covent Garden (Faust, La Bohème, Un Ballo in Maschera, Tosca), the Chicago Lyric Opera (La Traviata) and the Bavarian State Opera in various productions. Calleja also took part in Barrie Kosky’s provocative production of Carmen at Oper Frankfurt as well as Rolando Villazón’s production of Puccini’s La Rondine at Deutsche Oper Berlin.
In 2012, Calleja was given the honour of being nominated as Malta’s first Cultural Ambassador, and the previous year he became an Air Malta brand ambassador. More recently, he founded the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation along with Malta’s Bank of Valletta; the foundation helps children and families in need. In 2014, Calleja received the International Opera Awards’ Readers’ Award.