Part One featured last week recalled that the total area of the Maltese Islands is just 246 square metres and one may well ask what could possibly have emerged from lumps of limestone rock plonked in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea? https://b-c-ing-u.com/celebrities/malta-diary-they-made-their-name-and-also-made-malta-famous-part-one/
Writer Melanie Drury was born and raised in Malta but has spent a lifetime traveling around the world. Writing for the site guidemalta.com she published her list of internationally-renowned persons who have made their mark and these are some of them.
The presence of the Romans in the islands since 218-219 BC included one of Malta’s most historic events, the shipwreck of St Paul of Tarsus in 60 AD and eventually the conversion of the inhabitants into Christianity. He stayed in Malta for three months before going off to Rome to face trial for treason.
He regarded the inhabitants as “barbarians” because they did not speak Latin but a Semitic language. At the time of his rescue Paul was gathering wood for a fire to dry and dry off his clothing. He was bitten by a viper that was sheltering in the sticks of wood.
The awed pagan inhabitants reasoned the Gods had saved him from drowning but had condemned him to be poisoned to death! He did not die and the inhabitants were further awed this was a special person. Later, Paul pronounced poisonous snakes would henceforth be banished from Malta – and they were.
All that is debatable history shrouded in the mists of time. So let us move on to more recent times and the numbers of Maltese, or those of Maltese descent as well as those born in Malta who rose to international fame and made a name for themselves and carried Malta’s name with them.
Part One featured international personalities that were foreign but either had Maltese descent or were born in Malta. This week features actual Maltese personalities who were born and raised in Malta and rose to international acclaim and fame.
DR EDWARD DeBONO – Intellectual Philosopher
DeBono passed away a few months ago in Malta where he returned to his home country to retire after having travelled internationally for many years. He has been hailed as one of the most creative minds over the last 100 years. Born in Floriana, Malta, in 1933, he graduated as a medical doctor and then a psychologist. He went on to hold faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard in the USA. His greatest and most renowned introduction was that of “lateral thinking”, later becoming colloquially known as “thinking outside the box” – a creative and indirect method of considering a problem to solve it. In many countries this was included in the curriculum of many schools and institutes and the creation of several societies with lateral thinking as their basic theme. Dr DeBono came over to the public as a relaxed and reflective personality, speaking a simple dialogue for all to understand easily. He also had a great sense of humour. One of his other much-famed announcements was that if you refuse to change your mind then you might as well not have a brain. In all he had 57 books published in 34 languages. His death some months ago was announced internationally.
JOSEPH CALLEJA – International Operatic Tenor
Joseph Calleja was born on 22nd January in 1978 in Attard, in Malta. He began his singing career early, aged 16 when he was discovered by tenor Brian Cefai and was taken in hand by renowned Maltese tenor Paul Asciak. He made his stage debut at the Astra Theatre in Gozo at the age of 19 and in that year won the Belvedere Hans Gabor Competition, and the year after, 1998, he won the Enrico Caruso Competition in Milan and a year later still won the Placido Domingo Competition. These were his launch pad to international fame. He has performed in all of the world’s top operatic theatres but perhaps one of his majors was closing the BBC’s Last Night at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in 2012 when waving a miniature Maltese flag he led the assembly in a boisterous rendition of “Rule Britannia”. Earlier, in 2009, he began performing an annual concert on The Granaries in Floriana which he still performs todate, the proceeds going to local charities. This included his featuring with international stars such as Michael Bolton, Dionne Warwick, Lucio Dalla and Ronan Keating. In 2012 he was presented with an Honoris Causa Doctorate by Malta University. In 2015 he was appointed as Malta’s first Official Cultural Ambassador, a role which he is highly proud of and in the same year he was also elected to the Board of Directors of the European Academy of Music Theatre. When not on his musical travels, Joseph Calleja resides in Malta.
MIRIAM GAUCI – International Operatic Soprano
Miriam Gauci was born in Malta on 3rd April, 1957 and became the first woman to become internationally recognised in the operatic world as a soprano of high quality. Recognising her talent early she moved to Milan to make her entry into the operatic world. She made her professional stage debut in Bologna in 1984, made her La Scala debut in 1985 and the United States in 1987. By 1992 she had become firmly established with stage commitments in Vienna, Munich, Hamburg and Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico and regularly performed alongside the likes of Placido Domingo and other famed tenors. She can be heard in many recordings but excelled in her performances but most notably Pagliacci, Madame Butterfly, Othello, La Boheme and Tosca – all classed as the elite of the operatic world. Miriam is now aged 64 and is in stages of a much deserved retirement, enjoying her fame but continuing to bring fame to Malta with her recordings.
JOSEPH CALLEJA – Hollywood film star
From the 1930s onward and right up to the late 1950s, Hollywood churned out a continual stream of gangster films, an era in which Al Capone and the USA/Italian Mafia rose to high notoriety. Joseph Alexander Caesar Herstall Vincent Calleja was born on 4th August 1897 in Mdina. After serving in the British Transport Service during World War I he moved on to the United States to become a famous film actor, stage actor, a singer and participated in a wealth of radio programmes and television films. Joseph Calleja first started in Broadway comical music productions but was soon put on the payroll of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Entering the film world he became famous as a notorious gangster and villain, helped by his general Mediterranean profile of being “a shady man”. In all he featured prominently in over 60 Hollywood films such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Jungle Book, The Alamo, The Treasure of Pancho Villa and many others. During World War II Joseph Calleja led the Malta War Relief Organisation in the US and undertook many tours to entertain allied troops, particularly in North Africa and included Malta in his itinerary. After the war he wanted to change his “gangster” stereotype but still featured as a “sinister man” in comical productions. He featured in many classic films and played alongside Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman, Lucille Ball, Orson Wells and many others. At the end of his career he retired in Malta and died in Sliema in 1975 aged 78.
ANTONIO SCIORTINO – Sculptor and Artist
In the 1980s I went on a visit to Russia (then the Soviet Union) and went on a trip to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and naturally, our group (all Maltese) was taken to the world-famous Hermitage Museum. Our Russian guide explained the many excellent international works and to try and be clever, I said “yes, but we haven’t seen anything connected to Malta yet”. She looked at me in amusement and said “You think so? Follow me”. We went into a large hall full of sculptures and our guide said smugly “You see all these, they are the work of your Antonio Sciortino”. We were stunned into silence. Sciortino was born on 25th January, 1879 and died on 10th August, 1947. His sculpting talent became apparent at a young age and he went to study and work in Rome, his works reflecting Realism and Futurism and the obvious influence of Auguste Rodin. His talent obtained him many commissions for his works from Russia, Brazil and the United States. The excellent hallmarks of his works are part of our great heritage and include the famous Les Gavroches at the Upper Barrakka Gardens depicting the lives of three destitute children based on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables; the Great Siege Monument in Valletta (inaugurated on 8th May of 1927) and the Monument to Christ the King in Floriana. He sculpted Les Gavroches in Rome and this was brought to Malta in 1907. The mould of the statue is in Buckingham Palace in London as it was donated to Princess Elizabeth during her visit to Malta in 1951.
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“Saint Paul banished poisonous snakes from Malta but replaced them with the poison in the tongues of women.”
A very angry male criticism of the venom in the tongues of some women!