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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Arias from Aida, Il trovatore, La Forza del Destino, Don Carlo & Otello
Joseph Calleja (tenor)
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Ramón Tebar
rec. 2016, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia
Track listing at end of review
Sung texts with English translations included in booklet
DECCA 483 1539 [65.15]

As one of the world’s foremost lyric tenors the career of Maltese Joseph Calleja is certainly thriving. Calleja regularly appears at the world’s greatest opera houses, but has yet to appear at La Scala, Milan although he was programmed to appear there in 2013 for an all Verdi concert. Calleja’s special talent first came to my attention when he appeared as Faust in Boito’s opera Mefistofele in Roland Schwab’s 2015 staging for Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich on C Major DVD/Blue-ray. I chose the production as my 2017 Record of the Year (review).

As a nineteen-year-old making his debut as Macduff in Macbeth, Calleja has since become a Verdi specialist with eleven of his last thirty-seven productions being Verdi operas. So, it is no surprise that for his new album Calleja has returned to Verdi, singing a collection of ten arias, of a mainly serious character, from five different operas Aida (Radamès) Il trovatore (Manrico), La forza del destino (Alvaro) and the title roles in both Don Carlo and Otello. Calleja who seems to choose his roles prudently has yet to sing these roles on stage.

My highlight is Alvaro’s act three aria ‘La vita è inferno all'infelice’ from La forza del destino. Calleja’s heroic tone is impressive, whilst not always ideally steady, revealing a sweet edge to his timbre; he seems particularly comfortable in his top register. Highly successful too is Calleja’s act one love duet with Angela Gheorghiu as Desdemona in ‘Già nella notte densa’ from Otello with both entirely convincing and in most passionate voice. From act three in the aria ‘Dio! mi potevi scagliar tutti i mali’ with Otello pouring out his feelings for Desdemona, believing she has been unfaithful; it feels as though Calleja with his expressive tone, is living the words: nonetheless additional light and shade would produce something yet finer. Well matched in his duets with Calleja, baritone Vittorio Vitelli as Don Carlo (La forza del destino), Rodrigo (Don Carlo) and Iago (Otello) exploits his durable voice to conspicuous effect. Angela Gheorghiu’s duet contributions as Leonora (Il trovatore) and Desdemona (Otello) sound fresh, communicating emotion persuasively.

Ramón Tebar conducts the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana with care for tempi and dynamics whilst ensuing the music flows without dragging. Despite being used only once, the chorus Apollo Voices excel with a lusty and characterful performance of the stirring aria ‘Di quella pira’ from Il trovatore. Recorded at Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia the sound engineers have provided clarity, presence and a satisfying balance between voices, chorus and orchestra. Agreeably presented the album contains sung texts with English translations included in the booklet and there is a helpful essay by Erica Jeal.

Joseph Calleja with his ‘Verdi’ album is in outstanding form aptly displaying his progress as one of the finest tenors on the stage today.

Michael Cookson

Details

1. Aida: Se quel guerrier io fossi ...Celeste Aida, act 1 2. Il trovatore: Ah si, ben mio, act 3, scene 2 3. Il trovatore: Di quella pira, act 3, scene 2 4. La forza del destino: La vita è inferno all'infelice, act 3 5. La forza del destino: Invano, Alvaro...Le menaccie, act 4 6. Don Carlo: Dio che nell'alma infondere, act 2 7. Otello: Già nella notte densa, act 1 8. Otello: Oh! mostruosa colpa... Sì, pel ciel, act 2 9. Otello: Dio Mi Potevi Scagliar, act 3 10.Otello: Niun mi tema, act 4

Angela Gheorghiu, soprano (tracks 3, 7)
Vittorio Vitelli, baritone (tracks 5, 6, 8)
Apollo Voices, chorus (track 3)





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