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Update 3: Joseph Calleja receives honorary degree

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

"I am very much a Maltese product, I am very proud of my heritage, it is genuine love I feel for this nation," Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, 34, said this evening just after he was bestowed with a Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) degree from the University.

He was conferred the degree in recognition of his achievements as one of the world’s finest tenors who has sung "an impressive number of roles and performed on most of the world’s leading opera stages" bringing joy to millions and inspiring the young.

Wearing a University of Malta gown, Calleja treated the academics, relatives and guests at the University's Valletta Campus with a rendition of the Panis Angelicus and the Ave Maria.

In a brief address, he described the event as "an emotional moment". He said it gave him immense pleasure that his achievements abroad were recognised here in Malta.

Calleja said that throughout this experience, he had received lots of congratulatory messages from friends, acquaintances and people he did not know he knew.

Jokingly, he said that the event almost did not happen because he was informed he had to present his Form II report.

He spoke about an incident when he was at a park with his children in Malta and children went up to him asking him if he was Joseph Calleja. They then started singing the Nessun Dorma.

The man who wants to bring opera to the masses said that to him this was "mission accomplished".

The Maltese tenor spoke about his late father Charles, who, he said, would have been proud. 

In an oration, Prof. Joe Friggieri said that Calleja had already sung 30 principal roles and performed on most of the world’s leading opera stages, including New York’s Metropolitan, London’s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

Calleja, he said, made his professional debut in Gozo in 1997, singing the role of Macduff in Macbeth. Six weeks later he was one of the winners of the Belvedere Hans Gabor competition in Vienna, standing out among 3,800 contestants from around the world.  He went on to win the 1998 Caruso competition in Milan and was among the prize-winners in Placido Domingo’s Operalia the following year.

Prof. Friggieri gave a brief overview of the tenor's career and said that he was making it possible for millions of people around the globe, regardless of age and social background, "to have their lives enriched, their consciousness heightened, and their experience intensified by being exposed to the beauty and power of his voice.

"We as a nation are justifiably proud of his achievement.  The University of Malta is the first academic institution to grant him an honorary degree.  It will certainly not be the last."

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