Mario Lanza’s classics revived by Joseph Calleja


Tenor Joseph Calleja has turned his magnificent voice to recording the songs of Mario Lanza. Called Be My Love – A tribute to Mario Lanza, it’s the 4th solo CD for the 34 year old Maltese born lyric tenor. Due for release in mid-September under the Decca label, the music on the CD is inspired by the film The Great Caruso, the biography of the legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso which starred another Italian legend, the tenor and 1950s Hollywood screen idol, Mario Lanza.

Calleja has a breathtaking array of roles to his name, performed in the great opera houses of the world – Rodolfo in La bohème, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto at the Met, Pinkerton in a new, opening production of Madama Butterfly at the Houston Grand Opera, the Duke of Mantua, Alfredo and Macduff at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Elvino in Bellini’s La sonnambula, Arturo in I puritani and Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Vienna Staatsoper. At Vienna’s Konzerthaus, he sang Tebaldo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi alongside Anna Netrebko and Elīna Garanča, in concert performances recorded by Deutsche Grammophon and released in early 2009.

Calleja’s tribute to Lanza’s distinctive and incomparable voice includes his own cover versions of all three of Lanza’s million-selling hits – Be My Love, The Loveliest Night of the Year and Because You’re Mine. There’s also selection of the Neapolitan classics that Lanza sang in his recitals and operatic arias, some of which which he performed in his movies, including Addio all Madre from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetée from Bizet’s Carmen, Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot and Lanza’s own ‘lucky aria’ Vesti la giubba, Canio’s heart-breaking lament from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, which Caruso famously made into the world’s first ever million-selling record.

On the lighter side there’s Arriverderci Roma, Granada, Marechiare, Because and You’ll Never Walk Alone. Performing with Calleja is the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Steven Mercurio.

Calleja says it was The Great Caruso which inspired him, to take up singing, first in his church choir and then training with Maltese tenor Paul Asciak. Calleja made his professional debut in Malta in 1997 as Macduff in Macbeth.  In a happy co-incidence he won the 1998 Caruso Competition in Milan and was a prizewinner in Domingo’s Operalia the following year.

This recording, is a significant departure from opera although it is every bit as dramatic and passionate. “For this album”, says Calleja, “I wanted to sing things that I loved – songs and arias sung by Mario that I grew up listening to in films like The Toast of New Orleans and The Great Caruso. If you love something and you respect it, as I do Mario Lanza, you want to make the best tribute possible.”

“A great voice is a great voice whether it’s used in a film or in the theatre” says Calleja, “and Mario had a truly great voice … a voice of ridiculous beauty – unique, instantly recognisable and so pure; a full-voiced operatic tenor with a beautiful, beautiful sound.” A description that could well be applied to Calleja’s swoonworthy instrument.

Joseph Calleja Be My Love – A tribute to Mario Lanza

BBC Concert Orchestra Steven Mercurio

Decca 0289 478 3531 8 CD DDD DH. Release date September 14th 2012.

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