Critical Acclaim

Critical Acclaim

Russell Platt, The New Yorker

“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, after several years’ of fine journeyman work, is now maturing into an artist of the first rank.”

Tim Snider,

“The finest singer on the stage to this listener in the matinee performance of August 14 was Joseph Calleja, whose ringing tenor voice electrified the sold-out house.”

Tom Huizenga, NPR

“It’s rare these days to find an opera singer with such an individual sound that you can identify him or her in just a couple notes. Tenor Joseph Calleja, from the tiny island of Malta, is just such a singer. You can hear the golden Mediterranean sunshine in his voice, and I love his old-fashioned fast vibrato, which flickers like a vintage silent movie. Calleja…is arguably today’s finest lyric tenor.”

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

“This Maltese tenor… is coming up fast. He is the real thing, a tenor who naturally combines plaintive sound with burnished intensity. He sings with heart and intelligence.”

Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

“Mr. Calleja has one of the loveliest voices in opera right now, pure, sunny and strong, but with a ringing vibration.”

Mike Silverman, Associated Press

“One of the finest lyric tenors before the public today.”

The New Yorker

“In his latest outing as the Duke in Rigoletto, Joseph Calleja proves himself to be the Brazil Of singers: he’s the tenor of the future, and always will be. The big, honeyed tone [is] the purest and most appealing Italianate sound since Pavarotti.”

Neil Fisher, The Times

“Calleja … has a voice that hits you in a way that bypasses the brain and goes straight to the hairs on the back of your neck.”

Barrymore Laurence Scherer, The Wall Street Journal

“Mr. Calleja’s singing is a magnificent throwback to the golden age of Enrico Caruso. It is not just the distinctive beauty of the tone, but its fine-grained texture, most notably characterized by that rapid vibrato, that recalls the voices captured on antique 78rpm discs and early LPs. It is a sorry fact of today’s opera world that homogenized loudness is often valued above individualized refinement, yet Mr. Calleja’s plangent cantabile phrasing, in which each note is connected in a seamless golden line, recalls the old masters like Gigli (whose voice his most resembles) and more recent exponents of exquisite vocal art, like Carlo Bergonzi and the late Alain Vanzo.”

International Herald Tribune

“Tenor Joseph Calleja was the undisputed star of the evening as [Alfredo] Germont […] Calleja’s voice was like burnished velvet that lost nothing of its strength even at the opera’s most intimate moments, when pianissimo — not power — was called for. His pitch was perfect, his diction dead on.”

Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

“Calleja is certainly a tenor to reckon with. His voice has a light lyric quality coupled with considerable size; a slight nasal cast, but colored throughout with flecks of burnished gold.”

Associated Press

“There’s something about the honeyed sweetness of Joseph Calleja’s voice that seems to evoke memories of a golden age, as if this young tenor carried within his vocal cords a secret passed down from bygone generations.…It’s striking how often reviewers reach for historical comparisons when describing his voice. Some have praised it as the most thrilling lyric tenor sound since Luciano Pavarotti; others invoke the names of legendary singers from earlier eras: Jussi Bjoerling, Beniamino Gigli, even Enrico Caruso.”

Scott Barnes, Opera News

“The sheer beauty of Calleja’s voice and the artistry with which it is employed make this disc [The Maltese Tenor] worthy of a place in any tenor-lover’s collection, and of repeated listening.”

James Jorden, The New York Observer

“Mr. Calleja’s heady voice, with its flickering vibrato, is pure poetry—just right for the aspiring poet Rodolfo. So effortless is his vocalism that it’s easy to overlook the sophistication of his singing. Seamless legato phrases dance with his virtuoso use of rubato, minuscule shifts of tempo that add a dash of individuality to Puccini’s luscious melodies. Even when he sings as familiar a piece as ‘Che gelida manina,’ you stop and take notice, because suddenly the piece sounds new, impulsive and uncontrived.”

Jessica Duchen, The Independent

“Then there’s Joseph Calleja, the Maltese tenor. If Covent Garden wanted to generate its own electricity, it need only hook up some wires to him. His rock-solid yet ever-malleable voice and blazing stage presence could light a thousand lamps.”

Edward Seckerson, The Independent

“Everything about his sound and delivery is personal – the openness, the portamenti, the gentle flutter of vibrato, the ‘covered’ pianissimo spun to glorious effect… You know it’s special, you know you are in the presence of a little bit of operatic history.”

Anthony Holden, The Observer

“Here is a superstar in the making.”

Edward Greenfield, The Guardian

“His very distinctive timbre, with a rapidly flickering vibrato, brings a reminder of such a golden age singer as Alessandro Bonci, and his technique finds him just as happy in the bel canto of Donizetti as in the warm verismo phrases of Cilea and Puccini.… The most refreshing tenor recital for a long time.”

Ljubisa Tosic, Der Standard

“Calleja has an old-­fashioned but captivating timbre. That certain something is there – it rises above all this turbulence because it is borne aloft on unavoidable spontaneity. As Rodolfo he effectively and cultivatedly provides the essential high passages….his sizable voice easily cuts through the orchestra.”

Friedeon Rosén, Der Neue Merker

“In the short space of five years, Joseph Calleja has developed almost into a heroic ‘tenore di grazia’ and really sings phrases he can control from forte all the way down to the softest piano, and the flutter in his voice has faded into the background. The voice comes across almost as huge.”


“What a voice, what poetry, what melodiousness, what radiance!”

Daniel Wagner, Wiener Zeitung

“An unmistakable golden-age tenor.”

Judith Malafronte, Opera News

“The voice itself is sweet and ringing, along the lines of Luciano Pavarotti (one of Calleja’s early heroes), with a quick vibrato that adds to his old-fashioned appeal.”

Neil Fisher, The Times

“The fabulous Joseph Calleja … made me think not of his elder co-star [Placido Domingo] but more of a young Pavarotti. In his care, the future of tenor singing looks pretty rosy.”

Everett Evans, The Houston Chronicle

“Calleja sings with such range, such ease and such a rolling, robust sound that every phrase is pure pleasure to hear. He projects extrovert exuberance and casual charm.”

Antony Craig, Gramophone

“Calleja is a glorious tenor.”

Leonard Turnevicius, The Spec

“The cast was quite a good one with Joseph Calleja a superb Jacopo Foscari…”

Yannick Boussaert,

“Jacopo trouve en Jospeh Calleja un interprète complet et charismatique. Il faut louer la palette de couleur et l’attention aux nuances du ténor maltais qui permettent de donner une épaisseur à l’innocent persécuté. Du piano infime à l’aigu péremptoire il ne lui manque aucune cartouche, ni aucune demi-teintes qu’il parsème avec élégance dans un phrasé racé. Aux saluts, il dispute les bravi à son aîné.”

Eric C. Simpson – New York Classical Review

“The golden voice of Joseph Calleja at least made the vocal part a joy to listen to–he sent free, radiant tone into the house all night without a hint of effort.”

Wilborn Hampton – The Huffington Post

“It was a glittering and glamorous audience of New York’s social elite who showered a cast that also featured the Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja as Pollione, the third side of Bellini’s ill-fated love triangle, with a standing ovation that went on and on and included Carlo Rizzi’s masterful leading of the superb Met Orchestra and Chorus and McVicar’s creative team … Calleja has a powerful and commanding voice that is secure in the upper register … his duet with Radvanovsky in the final scene was emotional and affecting.”

Kim Feltkamp – Operawire

“Joseph Calleja brought vocal heft and physical power to Pollione …”

Mark McLaren – ZEALnyc

“…  sensitive work from tenor Joseph Calleja …”

Zachary Stewart – Theater Mania

“Calleja plays him like a macho man, taking whatever he wants and never apologizing. Who are the barbarians and who are the civilizers here, exactly? Calleja made his debut in this role just last year in Alex Ollé’s Catholic Taliban production at the Royal Opera House. That staging imagined Pollione as a waffling liberal politician. While this take is a more conventional one, it also feels more urgent in this age of unbridled male id. Happily, Calleja sings it unapologetically as well, with his ringing tenor easily filling the room. His is a voice that was truly made for the Met.”

Clare Colvin – Express

“Calleja, in clarion voice, convincingly evolves from chauvinistic love rat of the first act, to humbled penitent of the last scene.”

Lanning Taliaferro – Patch

Joseph Calleja made a vibrant Pollione, the betrayer who ultimately redeems himself. His voice has the silvery ingredient that is so admired in tenors. His delivery with the early High C, drew much applause from the generous Met audience and approbation from our almost full-house turnout.

George Hall – The Stage

Assuredly bringing a true and highly distinctive Latinate quality to his vocalism, Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja sings Cavaradossi with a combination of passion and refinement.

Mark Valencia – What’s On Stage

Calleja impressed most with his two-minute showstopper, “E lucevan le stelle”. It’s a huge moment that tenors too often sing as a generalised lament, but the Maltese tenor delivered it like a story from his heart and made it the high point of an otherwise mixed evening.

Joseph's Blog

May 16th, 2016

Quo Vadis Eurovision and other stories

Malta did not win the Eurovision but lo and behold the sun still rose and the island (the center of the known universe) still spun…

My two cents is that Ira Losco gave a really good performance and that the whole presentation was excellent. She shouldn’t have performed cause she is pregnant? Come off it – I have performed repeatedly with pregnant opera singers well into their 7th and 8th month of pregnancy and trust me when I say that rehearsing and performing for a full opera production is much more physically demanding than a couple of days at the Eurovision. Of course there are those who know much better than the undersigned and who went on to say that the presentation was a tad “camp”…oh the irony when one considers that the Eurovision is the campest of them all.

Meanwhile, this wouldn’t be Malta and the Eurovision wouldn’t be the Eurovision unless its politicized to the exhaustible hilt. The inevitable “mud slinging competition,” which we will see a lot of in the coming 22 months, ensued and even yours truly (inexplicably) ended up in the midst of the fray, in yet another “supernova” in a tea cup. The Eurovision suddenly became an interchangeable bullet to be used ad nauseam by both sides much like bitter parents who use their innocent children during disputes.  I have always found sycophants interesting, even amusing but they will not be getting the much desired Streisand effect from me, thank you very much. It is part of human nature after all to conjure conspiracies and we are not going to let the simple truth get in the way of some exciting and convenient fiction.

Speaking of “conjuring” is it me or is a company advertising real estate using a chap “connected” with the tragic and unnecessary death of an underage girl? It must be a clone or a”doppleganger”, otherwise this would be the epitome of bad taste and a 100 shades of wrong. Don’t get me wrong I am all for “second chances” and all of that but shouldn’t there be due process first? After all Lisa Marie didn’t get a second chance did she?