Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Calleja, mediated

Just a quick note upon hearing Joseph Calleja's Macduff over Sirius.

In the house the overpowering first impression -- to my ears, at any rate -- of his sound is its spaciousness. It's within this heroic-scale frame that his distinctive throwback vibrato fits and works, bringing character and life to his lyric sound. The close-miked broadcast squashes any sense of space and size on top of making the vibrato more prominent in an absolute sense. As is so often the case, a very different impression.

His most recent solo CD ("The Golden Voice"), on the other hand, seems engineered to hide the distinctive timbre his vibrato imparts, and a lot of less detailed speakers will effectively erase it. But its main problem is something else: specifically, that the disc was recorded almost exactly three years ago, when he was just 27. Every year for a young singer is crucial, and the difference between the struggling-with-pitch tenor of promise on the disc and the remarkable singer of even a year-and-a-half later was huge. And the show-stopper we're hearing this month is nowhere near captured on disc.

UPDATE (5/14): From his teacher's liner notes for this disc, it appears that Calleja's professional debut was as Macduff -- in Malta, 11 years ago.


  1. Calleja was awesome tonight in the house. During the performance I kept fantasizing about hearing Dolora Zajick as Lady Macbeth. I enjoyed Hasmik, and there were many delicious moments, but I wanted someone to overpower the stage, the orchestra, and Scotland, and Dolora can do it.

  2. I love Calleja, but have wondered why "The Golden Voice" didn't represent him at his best. His Macduff is a wonder in the theatre and his first recital disc was a great achievement.


  3. The problem with Calleja issuing his CDs so early was his lack of maturity. I always knew this artist had great things in store ever since he replaced an ailing Rolando in a Vienna Boheme about two years ago. His Golden voice is still a remarkable CD but it sounds as if its done "in a hurry" to my ears.

    In any case you are right in pointing out that the virile, old time beauty of his voice is not given justice on these first two records. Lets also remember that big voices don't record as well as smaller ones.

    But how great and rare it is to have a young tenor who is maturing rather than in a steady decline.....

  4. I wish Calleja could record a CD of Verdi's arias! He is a true Verdian tenor. I saw him at Washington National Opera as the Duke of Mantua this spring - he was amazing, and ah...those diminuendos!


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.