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Mario Frangoulis, When Dreams Come True


I had never heard of hearthrob tenor Mario Frangoulis when I got the assignment to interview and profile him in advance of Omaha concerts he gave a few years ago.  He was a lot of fun to speak with and his music was passionate if not exactly my style.  But he has a worldwide following, so what do I know.  He has a good story behind him too.  When you put together the voice, the looks, the international flavor, and the whole romantic aura about him, it’s easy to understand why he’s a star.

 

Mario Frangoulis
Mario Frangoulis: When Dreams Come True

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally appeared in Metro Magazine

 

Wherever Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis performs he sings of love, home, family, themes that reappear in his repertoire because they have such deep meaning for someone who “had a very troublesome childhood.” Born to Greek parents in Rhodesia, he lived in that African nation until age 4. When anti-aparthaid uprisals erupted there, he was left in the care of an aunt in Greece.

It meant separation from his parents and siblings.

“It was meant to be for a little while until things calmed down and unfortunately they got worse and it took me four years until I saw my parents again,” he said by phone from London, where he was headlining at Royal Albert Hall. “I lost my country, my best friend, my family. It was all very different in Greece. And, of course, I love Greece and I am Greek, but I was born in Africa.”

He knows now it was done “so I could be out of danger,” but as a child he “felt rejected. I felt like it was my fault. I was very upset for a long time and always searching for answers and always looking for a way out of myself and I guess I found this outlet through music — a great way for releasing a lot of the anger and hurt feelings. Music was a very positive force in my life. I feel very privileged to have had not just the want and the need to express myself but to have some kind of talent that I could then take advantage of and share with the rest of the world.”

When he appears in concert with the Omaha Symphony Orchestra for the first time on Nov. 7 ay 8 p.m. he’ll be with young people who’ve overcome their own adversity. Thirty-six current and previous Horatio Alger Scholarship winners in Nebraska will be featured during the Holland Performing Arts Center program. The need-based scholarships go to at-risk youths. Frangoulis, who’s given several concerts in support of the association, identifies with these kids.

“I’m so proud to be part of the Horatio Alger Association. Their scholarships give young people a chance to better themselves and to create their own future. I was very lucky because there were some people who believed in me and I think every child needs someone to believe in them, and the Horatio Alger Association does that. This is the best way to give — to be generous to young people, because young people are the future. And if it wasn’t for people supporting me at a young age I’m not sure what I would have done in my life.”

His aunt first recognized his musical gifts. Said Frangoulis, “If it wasn’t for my aunt I don’t think I would be in this business. She truly saw a talent and always encouraged me to study. She influenced me in so many good ways, and I think it all starts from home anyway. Greece became my home and she became my mother. In fact, I think I adopted her rather than the other way around.”

Frangoulis, who debuted professionally at age 17 in 1998, studied at Guildhall in London and Juilliard in New York. He’s done musical theater on the West End. He’s performed in major opera productions. He’s featured in the musical film De Lovely. He’s enjoyed crossover hits with the Sony Classical singles “Sometimes I Dream” and “Follow Your Heart.” He starred in a PBS special. He performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He’s toured America. He’s worked with such artists as Placido Domingo, Justin Hayward and Natalie Merchant.

Frangoulis is touring the world to promote his debut album, Sometimes I Dream, which he describes as “an extension of what I believe about good music and life.” Those enduring themes of love, home and family resound on it. “As a human being there’s always a need to be loved and to share the love you have with people,” he said, “whether it’s in a relationship or on stage with an audience.”

The album contains “a lot of personal songs,” he said, including the title track. “It has a very strong connection to what I thought I might be one day.” He said the songs are replete with “great images and great poetry.”

Opera-classical music, he said, “is my biggest love.” Why? “I don’t know,” he said, “I guess opera with its big feelings and huge sentiments has always been part of my life, so in a sense it’s like my feelings found a home in opera. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way of expressing myself. I’ve found a way of expressing my life through various styles of music — through a musical theater piece or a great rock song or a great jazz piece. I think they all have greatness. Music, if you’re open to allow it to affect you, it can affect you in so many different ways.”

He said audiences in Omaha can expect a diverse program.

Performing live is the ultimate expression of his art.

“The most honest moment between the audience and myself,” he said, “is the live performance — when the audience shares the song with you and the passion for your music, when you’re both in the same place responding to each other. I feel we are like mirrors — whatever you give to people they will respond to that and give you back. This is the magic of performing live.

“It’s up to you how open you are in allowing yourself to be a channel of communication through your music. It’s up to you to create and recreate yourself within this world. It’s a wonderful journey.”

Frangoulis will perform two additional concerts with the Omaha Symphony, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 9 at 2 p.m., also at the Holland.

The special Nov. 7 program honoring young scholars will be hosted by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Horatio Alger friend Steven H. Durham and family are honorary hosts. Durham’s the son of the late Charles W. Durham, an Alger member. Alger Chairman Emeritus Walter Scott Jr. and his wife, Suzanne, and President/CEO David L. Sokol and his wife, Peggy, will host the events.

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamy Mario Frangoulis

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally appeared in The Reader (www.thereader.com)

 

Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis is a world-class crossover artist. His serious vocal chops, eclectic tastes, adaptable style and abundant stage presence find him at home in different genres and mediums. Not quite 30, he’s already made a mark in opera, popular music theater, film, television, concerts and records.

This hunk and heartthrob with the soaring, multi-octave voice and smoldering Mediterranean passion is the classical equivalent of a rock star. Super Mario headlines three Omaha Symphony Orchestra concerts this weekend at the Holland Performing Arts Center on a world tour promoting his debut album, Sometimes I Dream. He described the work as “an extension of what I believe about good music and life” by phone from London.

Frangoulis, who debuted professionally at age 17 in 1998, studied at Guildhall in London and Juilliard in New York. He’s created roles on the West End. He’s performed in major opera houses. He’s featured in the musical film De Lovely. He’s enjoyed crossover hits with the Sony Classical singles “Sometimes I Dream” and “Follow Your Heart.” He starred in a PBS special. He performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He’s toured America. He’s worked with such artists as Placido Domingo, Justin Hayward and Natalie Merchant.

His repertoire is filled with themes of love, home and family because of what’s happened in his life. “I had a very troublesome childhood,” he said.

Born to Greek parents in Rhodesia, he lived in that African nation until age 4. When anti-aparthaid uprisals erupted there, he was left in the care of an aunt in Greece.
It meant separation from his parents and siblings.

“It was meant to be for a little while until things calmed down and unfortunately they got worse and it took me four years until I saw my parents again. I lost my country, my best friend, my family. It was all very different in Greece. And, of course, I love Greece and I am Greek, but I was born in Africa.”

Feeling lost, he turned to music for solace. It became his salvation. “I was very upset for a long time and always searching for answers and always looking for a way out of myself and I guess I found this outlet through music — a great way for releasing a lot of the anger and hurt feelings,” he said. “Music was a very positive force in my life. I feel very privileged to have had not just the want and the need to express myself but to have some kind of talent that I could then take advantage of and share with the rest of the world.”

His aunt first recognized his gift. Professionals soon took notice, taking him under their wing. The debt he owes to others led to his involvement with the Horatio Alger Association, whose scholarship program helps at-risk youth pursue dreams. On Friday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., the first of Mario’s three Omaha concerns will recognize on stage 36 current and previous Horatio Alger Scholarship winners in Nebraska.

Mario’s happy to share the spotlight with young people he sees himself in.

“I was very lucky because there were some people who believed in me and I think every child needs someone to believe in them, and the Horatio Alger Association does that. Their scholarships give young people from some very troublesome backgrounds a chance to better themselves and to create their own future. If it wasn’t for people supporting me I’m not sure what I would have done in my life.”

During his visit he’s meeting with the Omaha South High and Omaha Central High student choirs to offer words of inspiration and hope.

His album’s title track touches on the possibilities he imagined for himself on stage once people encouraged him. “It has a very strong connection to what I thought I might be one day,” he said. Opera’s his first love but he enjoys all kinds of music.

“I guess opera with its big feelings and huge sentiments has always been part of my life, so in a sense it’s like my feelings found a home in opera. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way of expressing myself. I’ve found a way of expressing my life through various styles of music — through a musical theater piece or a great rock song or a great jazz piece. I think they all have greatness. Music, if you’re open to allow it to affect you, it can affect you in so many different ways.”

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