The Maltese Tenor

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bizet,Boito,Gounod,Massenet,Offenbach,Puccini etc
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Arias by Bizet, Boïto, Gounod, Massenet, Offenbach, Puccini etc
PERFORMER: Joseph Calleja (tenor)
CATALOGUE NO: Decca 478 2720

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Joseph Calleja’s new collection shows an expansion of his repertory towards ‘bigger’ roles, more suited to a spinto (or ‘pushed’) tenor than a lyric. Only once does this register as a misjudgement – the rhetorical recitative to Adorno’s aria in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra sounds underpowered, though it has to be said that it doesn’t on a recent live DVD account (reviewed March 2011).

Once on to the aria proper, however, and the tone flows freely, as it does through a shapely traversal of the last-act Un ballo in maschera aria, the fairly hefty Luisa Miller romanza, Des Grieux’s ‘Donna non vidi mai’ from Manon Lescaut and other substantial pieces.

Nor has Calleja lost any quality in sizing up. The two Mefistofele arias receive near-ideal performances, the Pearl Fishers romance (one of two items in which the soprano duties are nicely undertaken by Aleksandra Kurzak) is enchanting, and the cavatina from Gounod’s Faust is appealingly shaped and crowned with a refined top C.

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Offenbach’s Hoffmann needs more character and more idiomatic French, at least if this account of the Legend of Kleinzach is anything to go by. But generally Calleja continues to persuade with a good sense of style. George Hall