Joseph Calleja: Opera is not for everyone but there is something in opera for everyone indeed!

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. Starting the 20-21 season Joseph Calleja returns to the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Enzo Grimaldo in performances of La Gioconda and later stars in Tosca with Sondra Radvanovsky. At the Munich State Opera, where Calleja is a regular guest, he takes over the roles of Duca in Rigoletto as well as Ricardo in Un Ballo in Maschera. He ends the season at the Teatro Real Madrid with his signature role of Mario Cavaradossi in performances of Tosca.
A sought-after concert soloist, Joseph Calleja can be heard on the best stages worldwide with his very broad repertoire. At the Köln Philharmonie and Konzerthaus Dortmund he presents his well-loved Lanza programme with the WDR Radio Orchestra in the 20-21 season. Further, he stars in the renowned Open-Air Gala in from of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Highlights of the 19-20 season include a return to the Chicago Lyric Opera as Rodolfo in Verdi’s Luisa Miller and to the Vienna State Opera for performances of Tosca with Bryn Terfel and Evgenia Muraveva. Calleja gave his house debut at the Semperoper Dresden in performances of La bohème before singing Tosca at the Munich State Opera.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, as Don José in Carmen at Oper Frankfurt in a staging of Barrie Kosky, as Cavaradossi in Tosca at Grange Park Opera and portrayed Ruggero in Rolando Villazón’s staging of Puccini’s La rondine at Deutsche Oper Berlin.

First of all, I want to thank you for accepting my invitation. It is a great honour! You began singing at the age of 16, first in a church choir and then in a formal training with the tenor Paul Asciak, and made your debut at the age of 19. When do you find out that opera is your future? Do you see yourself working in other field (which one)?


When I heard Mario Lanza sing in the movie The Great Caruso, I just wanted to sing opera. Of course I could have done other things, like becoming a lawyer or doctor, but singing is what I really wanted to do.

You won some important competitions like Caruso Competition in 1998 and also you were a prize winner in Placido Domingo’s Operalia in 1999. How this competitions helped to developed your career? Do you find helpful for a young singer to participate at competitions?

Placido Domingo is a mentor to many singers, his competition Operalia helped hundreds of singers, and he has patience and time for everyone. What a great man he is.

Speaking about repertoire, this includes major tenor roles, from Puccini to Verdi and not only. However, it is said that Mario Cavaradossi is your signature role. Mario brought you almost everywhere in Europe, even in America at Metropolitan Opera House. What is special about this role? Can you say that, this is the role which represents the person, Joseph Calleja?


I share many things with Mario! Passion, art, love and fiery temperament! Puccini’s music also helps. Tosca is more a movie than an opera!

Read the entire interview here, in the 6th/2021 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.

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