Following his homage to the people’s tenor Maria Lanza, it makes sense for Calleja to come up with a recital ranging from Leoncavallo and Tosti to Morricone and Edith Piaf. Although there are songs in no less than six languages, the Maltese tenor is obviously most at home in his mother tongue, Italian. Many critics have commented on the ‘golden-age’ quality of his voice, his ease of production and his wish to remain a man of the people. However for all of the ease and honeyed legato, one often yearns for geater involvement with the text. One also wishes more care had been taken in the choice of repertoire and the lush orchestrations.
The sheer beauty of the voice is almost enough to justify Time to Say Goodbye but the rounded Italianate vowels are too much for as simple a tune as You Raise Me Up. Similarly Piaf’s La Vie en Rose remains an odd choice as it is so strongly associated with the feminine (though here his French vowels are far more agreeably idiomatic). Equally odd is the vocal take on the Adagio from Rodrigo’s Concerto De Aranjuez though it’s nice to hear Calleja in Spanish. His German and Russian remain puzzling with their lack of decisive consonants, yet such is the beauty of vocal production that one doesn’t tire of listening to him.
Conductor Steven Mercurio and the versatile BBC Concert Orchestra provide sympathetic support but the overblown arrangements irritate upon repeated listening.