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It is only 2 days to go, and rehearsals are in full swing in preparation for Verdi’s Macbeth at Teatru Astra. As has been the tradition for a long number of years, the organising committee of Festival Mediterranea, following the advice of the theatre’s musical director Prof Joseph Vella, has recruited a formidable cast to tackle the demanding roles this opera requires.

Leading the cast is world-famous soprano Francesca Patanè, daughter of the legendary conductor Giuseppe Patanè, in the difficult role of Lady Macbeth. Ms Patanè is one of the world’s top dramatic sopranos, excelling in roles as Turandot, Tosca, Gioconda, and others. Her January performance of an avant-garde Salomé at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome has further enhanced her reputation as a consummate artist and brilliant interpreter. Her beautiful, strong timbre, coupled with a magnificent stage presence, marks her out as one of the world’s top sopranos to tackle such dramatic roles as Lady Macbeth.

Macbeth is being sung by baritone Marco Chingari, whose name has become a byword for success in roles such as Jago, Scarpia, and Marcello in La Bohème. Bass Franco di Grandis is a formidable Banco, possessing a rich, darkly-hued voice that is the hallmark of the Verdi bass.


Asked to replace world-class tenor Rolando Villazon for performances at Covent Garden, Joseph Calleja turned down such a lucrative offer to stay loyal to his commitment of singing the role of Macduff in Macbeth at Teatru Astra, the place he calls ‘home’. Joseph Calleja, whose latest debut in Chicago in the role of Alfredo in La Traviata has been acclaimed as a milestone in his career. The Chicago Tribune (1st October 2007) music critic John von Rhein had this to say of Calleja’s performance: “He commands a real Italianate lyric tenor, robust and evenly produced throughout its range…. A lyric debut in so prominent a role is a career milestone and Calleja ran with it. We need to hear him again”. Another critic, James L Zychowicz commented that “Calleja demonstrates an easy facility that one hopes to find in other performers who take on this role…. This tenor was impressive through the whole opera, and his performance was one of the high points of the evening”. The Theatre Critic Betty Mohr wrote that “A new opera star was born in the debut of tenor Joseph Calleja as Alfredo. It was Calleja, a Maltese tenor in his first appearance at the Lyric, who brought the house down. It was his lush and sweet Italianate tenor voice, which sounds very much like that of the late Luciano Pavarotti that stole everyone’s heart”.

Joseph Calleja’s future engagements include the Gala Night at the Royal Opera House in the role of Alfredo in La Traviata this November. Further performances of this opera will take place in Zurich and Vienna. Other opera performances, including Rigoletto in Washington and Macbeth at the Metropolitan, amongst others, with concerts and recitals seeing him travel as wide as Japan, pack Calleja’s schedule for this year. His Europalia Recital takes place in Namur, Belgium, during which concert Calleja will be performing Joseph Vella’s Il-Kebbies tal-Fanali.
The National Orchestra will be under the expert direction of Prof Joseph Vella, while the producer is the very well-known Mario Corradi.

Macbeth is being performed at Teatru Astra on Thursday 25 and Saturday 27 October at 7.30pm. Interested opera lovers can enquire about the few remaining tickets by phoning 21550985.

Photos: Joe Attard ©