Today is the birthday of tenor Joseph Calleja, the latest star in an illustrious line of successful tenors from the small island of Malta. In celebration of him and those before him, we present a special on tenors from Malta this month. Four tenors are featured, listed below in order of birth date.[margin40] [one_fourth] [button link=”https://www.operavivra.com/artists/tenors/icilio-calleja/” size=”small” variation=”blue” align=”right”]Read bio[/button][/one_fourth] [three_fourth_last]
Icilio Calleja (1882-1941)
The number of tenors throughout the first half of the twentieth century considered great exponents of the role of Otello ever since Francesco Tamagno premiered Giuseppe Verdi’s opera in 1887 at La Scala, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Without a doubt, one of them was Icilio Calleja, who became the second tenor after Tamagno to sing this demanding role at the same opera house. In Italy, one critic dubbed him the Napoleon of tenors – Il Napoleone dei tenori.
Paul Asciak (1923-2015)
Paul Asciak was born in Valletta, Malta on January 28, 1923. His talent showed early enough and he spent years of singing in the famed St James Choir, Valletta. He sung with the very finest singers of the past century, from Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland to Piero Cappuccilli and Giulo Neri. A triumphant and long career marked by glowing reviews, which are featured richly in our biography.
Oreste Kirkop (1923-1998)
Malta’s Oreste Kirkop, the island’s singing ambassador of the Fifties, achieved international fame as a tenor and actor, the latter activity spent in Hollywood, where he starred in the popular film The Vagabond King. He was principal tenor of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in the period 1954-1958. He took part in the first telecast ever of Verdi’s Rigoletto in 1958.
Joseph Calleja (1978)[three_fourth_last]
The only contemporary singer in this special, Joseph Calleja made his debut at the very tender age of 19, after years of tutelage by another tenor in our special: Paul Asciak. His artful phrasing and radiant lyric tenor voice are praised by both reviewers and audience members. The voice is marked by a distinctively bright shine that very much reminds of his native Malta. Almost two decades into in his professional career, Calleja is a prolific performer and international star who continues to be in great demand at top venues around the world.
Enjoy the biographies and leave comments here or discuss this special on the forum!