Joseph Calleja / Tatiana Lisnic / Philharmonia / Reynolds - Cadogan Hall, 11 June, 2008
Barbiere Overture - Rossini - orchestra
Recondita Armonia - Tosca – Puccini – Joseph
Mesicku na nebi - Rusalka – Dvorak – Tatiana
Carmen Suite - Bizet - orchestra
La fleur que tu m'avais jetée - Carmen - Bizet - Joseph
Caro Elisir….Esulti Pur La Barbara – Elisir d’ amore Donizetti – Tatiana and Joseph
William Tell Overture - Rossini - orchestra
O figli, o figli miei.....Ah, la paterna mano – Macbeth - Verdi - Joseph
Eccomi in lieta vesta - Capuleti i Montecchi - Bellini - Tatiana
Maristella: Io conosco un giardino – Pietri – Joseph
Je veux vivre - Romeo et Juliette - Gounod - Tatiana
Intermezzo - Manon Lescaut - Puccini - orchestra
O Soave Fanciulla - La Bohème – Puccini – Tatiana and Joseph
Encores: Meine Lippen sie kussen so heiss - Giuditta - Lehar -Tatiana, Torna a Surriento - Joseph, Brindisi - La Traviata - Verdi - Tatiana and Joseph
After Erwin Schrott cancelled his Cadogan Hall date, prompting legal action from the promoter, it looked like refund time. But fortunately Joseph Calleja stepped into the breach, together with his wife, soprano Tatiana Lisnic. Although Calleja has waistcoat-straining 'vocal support' where Ervino has pecs, in all other respects it turned out to be a more than fair trade.
Calleja's voice was even bigger than I remembered it - earsplittingly so from the front rows. Some of the brightness of old is gone, but this is no disadvantage, as his timbre has become darker, more assertive - simply more grown-up for want of a better term. The idiosyncratic vibrato now seems drastically tamed, all his training artfully subsumed into a sound so clean, firm and apparently effortless that you might think he was singing to himself in the shower. His tonal palette is not especially broad, and as for dynamic range, on this display it stretched only from ff to fff. But every sound is a beautiful one, and in the evening's selected repertoire it was enough.
I would have preferred some bolder programme choices, but to be fair, the cornerstones of his current operatic repertoire were a practical selection for the very mixed Cadogan Hall audience. What's more, Calleja presented these most ancient of chestnuts with an enthusiasm and evident affection that made them sound anything but overfamiliar. Anyone not slayed by his voice must have been won over by his congeniality and warmth.
Tatiana Lisnic, a charming silvery soprano, was a more than adequate duet partner. Her coloratura drifted, and she lacks Calleja's Bryn-like charisma, but her confidence and her performance improved as the night went on. Her Lehar encore showed her at her best.
The Callejas had the luxury of the Philharmonia behind them, a mixed blessing, as more gusto and less refinement might have helped in places. But Julian Reynolds managed to whip up enough enthusiasm for a mad ride through the William Tell Overture, and crowned the evening with a late addition to the programme, a supersmooth Manon Lescaut Intermezzo (hay, smy tune!). As ever in these sort of mixed recitals, I would have preferred more singing though.
Joseph Calleja won't be back in London until next year, when he stars in La Traviata at Covent Garden, this time with Renee Fleming.