Five Minutes with Tenor Joseph Calleja

I’m sure that there are many mums and dads out there who aspire to raising their kids to be the next Joseph Calleja. As an artist and dad yourself, what advice have you got for them? 

Let them enjoy their childhood. There is plenty of time for them to become adults. Having said that, having some general musical education can only be beneficial for the formation of any child.

Do you sing in the shower for fun (lucky neighbours if you do!) or do you save your voice for the stage?

I do tend to sing everywhere when I am happy but of course when I have to sing professionally, I save my voice for the stage. It is not the first time I let rip in restaurants and have patrons in the restaurant telling me; “You should consider becoming a professional singer!”

What/who inspires you, and what is your pick-me-up remedy when you need cheering up?

There are simply too many people to mention but my mother, family and friends are truly a special bunch. It is important in life to be surrounded by people who are not afraid to tell you the truth. Better to be saved by criticism rather than to be ruined by praise…

Can you let us in on some juicy, gossipy tit-bit of information you were privy to when filming the movie, The Immigrant? … and was the experience all you expected it to be or were there any surprises which you were faced with?

It was surreal to be on the set with Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner. James Gray is a great director, period.

Do you enjoy it when people in Malta recognise you and come up to you or would you rather go unnoticed?

I don’t think myself as someone special, I just have a special gift. I behave normally and people behave normally in turn. I don’t mind at all to be asked for an autograph or to pose for a picture.

What do you consider to be your best character trait? … and your worst?

The best – the ability to laugh at myself.

The worst – I tend to worry too much, especially about my children.

How important is image in today’s operatic scene?

Very important, as things are getting more superficial by the day.

Have you always been a natural performer or do you have to work at calming your nerves before a live performance?

Performing comes naturally for me but I do suffer from terrible nerves before singing. I don’t show it, so people are usually surprised when I tell them this.

I’ve read in Renee Fleming’s brilliant book The Inner Voice that she was asked to do all sorts of ego-defying, silly things during master classes to improve her vocal or acting technique. Is it an experience you can relate to?

I have never been to a master class as I prefer lessons to be one to one. Very often, students go to master classes when they are not really prepared to do so. There are way too many people in a master class for a student (and teacher) to take the real necessary “risks” to implement vocal technique in the right way.

Which era in history can you imagine yourself living in and who  would you have been in a past life?

Napoleon without the massacres. He was a great visionary and perhaps one of the first who envisioned a united, modern Europe. With regard to era, definitely the early Roman period. What an empire!

Who is the person with the most intriguing character you’ve met so far?

Some of my close friends. Two of them seem to have come out of a hilarious movie of dark comedy.

Do you enjoy the recording process as much as a live performance?

Yes, albeit in a very different way.

There is a lot of talk going round about tunings in 432Hz, which is considered to be a natural, healing and spiritual vibration. The standard tuning currently is 440Hz and there has been talk of 444Hz tunings too. Do you think this is an issue of importance and how does it affect you as a singer?

Anything above 438hz is murder for the voice. Simply put, the human voice was not built to sing at such a high pitch. I am sure that it is one of the reasons why we are so lucky with great high pitched lyric tenors but so in need of more full lyric/spinto and dramatic voices. A heavy voice simply cannot operate healthily at that range (ie. above 438hz)