BWW Interviews: Tenor Mario Frangoulis - International Superstar to Perform in NYC

With a dozen gold and platinum releases under his belt, two hit PBS Specials and a decade of sold-out concerts world-wide, international superstar Mario Frangoulis returns to New York for two shows this weekend at Lincoln Center.

Still, much like soccer and universal healthcare, Mario Frangoulis has yet to really catch fire here in the U.S. But, with a multi-city U.S. tour beginning this week, perhaps U.S. audiences will discover what the rest of the world already knows: the cross-over sensation, blessed with movie-star good looks and one of the most beautiful tenor voices on earth, is one of the most diverse and dynamic performers in the world today. BWW managed to catch up with the tenor for lunch this week to discuss his new CD "Beautiful Things," his current U.S. Tour and his upcoming shows at Lincoln Center this weekend.

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Few performers in the world have a pedigree quite like yours, spanning serious Opera, Broadway, Classical-Crossover, pop, etc. I hate categorizing artists as it is often limiting, but what do you consider yourself first and foremost?

A classical crossover performer is exactly that! An artist who embraces various styles, with a passion for Opera. I don't see myself playing Othello any time soon though. However, I would like to be on the interviewer's side of the desk and ask this same question to my audiences!

You have had some very famous teachers along the way. Among them Marilyn Horne, Alfredo Kraus. Was there any one thing that all of them stressed? Anything they all cautioned against?

They all cautioned against my excess energy even though that was my 'natural energy' and that's what (I thought at least) gave me the 'drive and stamina' to pull through 8 shows a week in musical theatre playing leading roles and the ability to sing for 8 hour rehearsals without feeling 'tired'...On the downside, I was a man who wanted 'results' and also never accepted 'defeat' so.... both Marilyn Horne and Alfredo Kraus Both knew there was a 'risk' in my future as an opera singer because they knew I had no patience and was so driven to succeed. Marilyn Horne felt I didn't take it as seriously as I could have... but Kraus felt that if he could do contemporary musical theatre, he would do no opera... I thought he was joking! He was a perfect singer with an immaculate singing technique! Marilyn Horne is a legend and knows the ART OF SINGING very well and has such high expectations of those she believes in.

You have always been an extremely gracious artist and performer, in addition to your staggering about of charitable work, you constantly share the stage with new and upcoming artists, giving them the benefit of your platform and popularity. Do you think that is a result of your own experience and the special artists who guided you in your own career?

Of course it is a result of the generosity and mentorship that I received early in my career. You model what you were taught and experienced... and it reflects my own belief in young people, and the potential for the future. Having said that, I love to collaborate with other artists, because no matter what, I am always learning and growing as an artist myself. This is why I love to experiment with different genres and styles. Of course, I have a "classical" voice, but I like to blend what I do with others who are best in class in their own respective genres and styles. This is why Classical Crossover music is such a love of mine - because it gives me the opportunity to take my training and what I do best and blend it with other musical styles - making my music more accessible to a broader audience.

Placido Domingo has been a big fan and supporter of you for many years, have you had the chance to hear any of his new endeavors into the Baritone repertoire?

Of course...Simon Boccanegra, Germond in La Traviata and most recently in ENCHANTED ISLAND! All good... Placido is Placido... one and only.

As the THREE TENORS have faded into history, a new crop of tenors are coming up. Are you a particular fan of any?

I think Jonas Kaufman is exceptional. But it will be a great challenge to find new talented singers with different voice types. Still CORELLI was amazing... and still on my list of 5 TOP singers that will never be forgotten!

Bryn Terfel just did a wonderful Sweeney Todd at Lincoln Center, would you ever consider returning to the musical theater stage? And if so, under what circumstances?

I would consider returning to the stage if the right opportunity presented itself. Of course the role would have to be right for who I am today and would have to support what I am doing in my career right now. I am less interested in doing the same things again and again - if it is something that will challenge me and help me grow and evolve as an actor and singer I would be all for it!

The term classical-crossover has gotten expanded to include quite a few different styles of singing. Recently in the UK a CC artist got some seriously bad press for constantly billing herself as a "Mezzo-soprano" and an "opera star." Do you think Classical and Classical crossover can peacefully co-exist?

Of course I believe they can co-exist! For me, Classical to Classical-Crossover just represents a continuum of music from one genre to another. I believe that it doesn't matter what you do, you must try to make it your own and do your best. Of course it is great to be educated and able to sing everything... but you have to be true to what you are doing. For me authenticity is what is most important. If you are doing Classical don't try to be pop or Classical-Crossover, if you are doing Classical-Crossover, shouldn't try to be Classical...etc. That's what opens people up to being criticized because the press and fans are educated listeners and I believe if you are honest with yourself and your audience you have nothing to fear.

Would you ever consider doing a purely operatic CD or for that matter a purely rock/pop CD?

Yes, of course! I have already mapped out some potential projects. I was just discussing with my team the other day about great rock n' roll songs I love - I recently had the opportunity to sing with Klaus Meine from the Scorpions in Germany a great talent -- and we found such an amazing middle ground for our voices within the rock n' roll style... stay tuned!

I know you are a big fan of Freddie Mercury and Queen, did you hear that Queen has just announced they are coming on tour with Adam Lambert singing?

I actually had not! I am a huge fan of Freddie Mercury because for me he was one of the pioneers (in a sense) of Classical Crossover - whether he knew it or not! I wish Adam Lambert the best of luck - it's a great honor to tour with Queen.

Are there any current artists from the rock and pop world whom you are really excited about?

There are so many amazing writers and artistic talents out there - I am very happy that Alexandra Burke from the UK - an amazing young talent and great voice is joining me at Jazz at Lincoln on March 21st and 22nd... I always gravitate towards artists and voices - no matter what genre - who are true to themselves and their own 'gift'. Alexandra is one of those people, as is Adele for example and John Legend.

Your early releases "Sometimes I Dream" and "Follow Your Heart" reflected a perfectly blended cross over style - whereas "Passione" - your tribute to Mario Lanza, seemed a bit more straight forward Italianate Tenor style. Where do you feel your current release "Beautiful Things" fits in the spectrum?

'Beautiful Things is' even more classical crossover than 'Sometimes I Dream' and 'Follow Your Heart.' The reason that I recorded "Passione" is because I really believe that Mario Lanza was one of the first classical crossover artists ever. If you think about it, Lanza is the one who really brought opera into people's everyday lives - through concerts and films - and even though he was considered an opera singer, he still sang a broad repertoire. Again, it's all along a "continuum" from classical to crossover.

Will the audience at your upcoming shows be treated to a selection primarily in support of "Beautiful Things" or will they hear more of a career retrospective?

Both! Of course I am featuring the songs from Beautiful Things - and I am introducing some other songs that I think people will be surprised by as well as songs from my well-known repertoire from "Sometimes I Dream" and "Follow Your Heart" Don't forget, I have great guests with me too, which will add new and interesting elements to the program.

Tell us a little bit about the artists who are going to be performing with you on this tour.

In New York, we have the fantastic young Pop/R&B singer, Alexandra Burke who is known for her great interpretation of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah," and my great friend French-Greek singer George Perris; and in Chicago I am really happy to be joined by classically trained jazz singer Tammy McCann who I originally saw perform in New York and I thought we could have a lot of fun on stage together!

What does the future hold for you and can we expect to see and hear more of you on this side of the Atlantic?

Well, I have a lot of great projects running right now. We are releasing an "Essential" album of my "favorites" for the U.S., and I am in the process of recording a spiritual/holiday album with the fantastic producer Jorge Calandrelli. It is such an honor to work with him - he has worked with everyone from Domingo, Bocelli and Groban to Streisand and Tony Bennett. If anyone understands what "classical crossover" means, it's him! There is a lot more, of course, such as concerts in the U.S. and Canada and some very interesting collaborations. My new management team is very unique led by Kevin Liles and Alvaro Domingo - which we were so happy about because I feel that by having a team that understands both worlds: the commercial music world and the classical world we can really succeed at bringing this classical crossover genre to a whole new level. Exciting times!

BWW CLASSICAL would like to thank Mario Frangoulis for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit and talk with us about his upcoming projects and his concerts this week at Jazz at Lincoln Center. If you are fan of classical-crossover, and you are not yet familiar with Frangoulis, run (don't walk) to one of his upcoming U.S shows. You will be glad you did!

There are still a few ticket available for the performances. Tickets are available at the Jazz at Lincoln Center website. www.jalc.org For more information about Mario Frangoulis visit: http://www.mariofrangoulis.com/

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From This Author Peter Danish

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