Friday, June 24, 2011

Psst - want a legal high?

If so, sit back and turn up the volume. Listen to Joseph Calleja singing 'E lucevan le stelle' from Tosca (on Youtube, below). Then imagine being just four metres away from him as he does so. That, dear reader, is how I was privileged to spend my lunchtime. If they're going to crack down on 'legal highs', as some newspapers are reporting today, then what are they going to do about tenors?

Calleja has grown up: the Maltese falcon is flying. I heard his first CD some years ago - bel canto arias in what seemed a pleasing, light, precise voice. So I wasn't prepared for what hit us today when Decca put on a showcase half-hour performance by him in the Royal Opera House's crush room, to preview his new album 'The Maltese Tenor'. At about 32, he's not a slender, tender tenor type, but instead a big, bullish, walking soundbox imbued with roaring charisma. By the time he'd finished his programme, mostly Verdi and Puccini, I reckon the entire gathering was head over heels in love. Afterwards the chat was mostly about how unbelievably lucky we felt to be there to hear such an artist at all, let alone at such close quarters. And we all want to go and see him in Malta, his homeland, where he has just founded a new festival.

This is a major, major star in the making. If he's coming to a stage near you soon, you don't just want a ticket; you need one, fast. And you can follow him on Twitter at @MalteseTenor. Hope you love him as much as we did.