Joseph Calleja received a "rousing ovation" from a New York audience last Thursday after the opening night of his most demanding role to date - the lead in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman at the Metropolitan Opera.

For decades, Hoffmann - a poet, dreamer and delusional lover - has proved to be a "daunting role" according to The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini, but Calleja "gave his all, singing with ardour, stamina and poignant vocal colourings" earning him a "rousing ovation".

"(Calleja) withstood the pressure of singing this formidable role for the first time in a major new production at the Met, and saved the day. He needs to do more work with his voice, but he is a gifted and promising tenor."

Associated Press critic Ronald Blum said Calleja was suffering the effects of a cold but still managed to give "a dominating performance in a demanding lyric role," which requires the Maltese tenor to spend over three gruelling hours on stage alongside sopranos Anna Netrebko and Kathleen Kim, mezzo Kate Lindsey and baritone Alan Held.

Critics also lauded conductor James Levine's return to the Met after an absence of more than two months to recover from back surgery as well as Bartlett Sher's direction.

Offenbach's fictionalised take on the life and loves of the German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann is a psychological journey.

In a less complimentary review, The New York Post slammed the production, describing it as a "glamour-deprived dud" but it said Calleja sang his first Hoffmann in a sweet, shimmering voice that sometimes turned tight under pressure".

Calleja has also made the cover of the highly-respected Opera News magazine and was the subject of a world-syndicated article on Hoffmann by Associated Press writer Mike Silverman, who said the Maltese tenor's new role could give him the final push towards international stardom.

The Maltese tenor will also feature on a new album by Italian singer Claudio Baglione.

The new production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, which will run until January 2, will be broadcast live in Malta on December 19 as part of the The Met: Live in HD season at St James Cavalier Cinema.

Encore screenings in high definition will also be held on December 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. with an additional matinee screening on December 27 at 3 p.m. Tickets are available from the box office on 2122 3200, boxoffice@sjcav.org or online from www.sjcav.org.

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