Oreste Kirkop was born in Hamrun on 26th July 1923. He was the 5th child of a family of 10 kids. He started to realise his singing capabilites be singing in the shelters during war time. Afterwards he started learning from Maltese tenor Nicolo Baldachino. He made his operatic debut at the age of 22 in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana at the Radio City Opera House, Hamrun as Turiddu, on the 24th February 1945. On the 23rd December 1948 he got the first role in a major production of Rigoletto when the the main tenor got sick. In 1948 he met Maltese baritolo Joseph Satariano who encouraged him to start an opera career in the UK. He left Malta in 1950 and started working with Carl Rosa Opera Company. Two years later he joined Sadler's Wells and his carrier continued to grow.
Between 1954 and 1958 he was the principal tenor at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, London. He was the first Maltese to be exclusively engaged as a principal tenor and the first Maltese to sing a Major Principal role in this Opera House. In 1953, he was chosen by the BBC to represent Malta for the "Coronation Commonwealth Gala".
Later he moved to Holywood and performed the title role in Paramount's Musical film THE VAGABOND KING in 1956. Between 1957 and 1958 he was the principal tenor of the NBC Opera Company, New York. He toured 57 major cities throughout the U.S.A. He also appeared on various T.V shows.
In 1960 he retured to Malta. He got married on the 15th August 1963 to his wife Therese and has two daughters Anita and Susan. After getting married he retired completely from singing at the young age of 37. He retirement was mainly due to heart problems after being told by doctors that he might die on stage if he continues his singing carrier after the age of 40.
The great music critic Harold Rosenthal, writing in Opera magazine, had this to say about Oreste: "The Maltese tenor Oreste Kirkop proved himself to be a singer of real merit. Good tenors are scarce everywhere and worth their weight in gold. Not since Gigli's appearance in Cavaradossi's role, has this been so beautifully sung.".
Bill Crosby described Oreste Kirkop as the man with superstratospherical high notes.
In 1997 Kirkop was presented the Malta Society of Arts, Manufacturers, and Commerce's gold medal.
Oreste Kirkop dies aged 74 on the 10th May 1998
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