Best-known for his impressive portrayal of the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning musical, The Phantom of the Opera, Franc D’Ambrosio performed as the famed masked man more than 2,100 times. Affectionately known as the “Iron Man of the Mask,” Franc held the title of “The World’s Longest-Running Phantom” for more than a decade after bringing over five million theatre-goers to their feet in a 6-1/2-year run.
But that distinction only scratches the surface of an illustrious career spanning decades, including Franc’s portrayal of the opera-singing Anthony Vito Corleone, son of Al Pacino and Diane Keaton’s characters in the seven-time Academy Award-nominated film Godfather III. Paramount Pictures sent five talent scouts on an international search for the young Corleone, auditioning more than 2,000 artists over a one-year period before casting him in the role. Franc also sang the theme song Speak Softly Love (Brucia la Terra) for both the film and Original Motion Picture soundtrack, garnering over one million hits on YouTube. In 1974, Carmine Coppola’s haunting Godfather theme won an Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score. Franc remains the first and only person ever to perform a vocal version of the song in the film’s trilogy.
Franc’s performance of the song so impressed the late Luciano Pavarotti that it led to an invitation from the legendary tenor for Franc to study at Pavarotti’s private home in Italy in the summer of 1990. Having previously studied at the famed Vocal Academy of Lucca in Italy, Franc quickly cultivated a passion for his Italian roots and culture, becoming fluent in the language and eventually founding the Accademia Vocale Lorenzo Malfatti in Lucca, Italy, where he teaches his craft to young opera students each summer. Franc also lectures at music schools throughout the United States and Europe, including conservatories in Spoleto and Florence, Italy, and the famed Juilliard School in New York City.
In early 2000, Franc caught the attention of Barry Manilow, who personally selected him for the lead role of “Tony” in the pre-Broadway tour of Copacabana based on Manilow’s hit song. Franc worked side-by-side with Manilow for five weeks perfecting the musical production, which culminated in a successful year-long tour and earned Franc a National Theatre Award nomination for Best Male Performer in a Musical.
Since 2005, Franc has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and South America with his critically-acclaimed one-man shows, including Franc D’Ambrosio’s BROADWAY: Songs from the Great White Way, and Franc D’Ambrosio’s HOLLYWOOD: Songs of the Silver Screen, along with A Tribute to the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christmas in New York, and a musical perspective of popular war songs from World War II titled I’ll Be Seeing Youz. He is a frequent guest artist with many major American, European, and Asian orchestras and symphonies, and tours the world teaching his widely-acclaimed Master Classes.
Franc has performed in several network television specials featuring Olympic figure skaters such as Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan, including NBC’s “Brian Boitano’s Skating Spectacular” and “A 2005 Tribute to Movies on Ice” with fellow musical guest Michael Bolton. Franc’s performance of “The Music of the Night,” as interpreted by Boitano, brought the audience of more than 6,000 to their feet for the evening’s only standing ovation. In 2008, he toured internationally with co-star Dorothy Hamill in Broadway On Ice.
In May 2018, Franc was honored to receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the third annual Cannes Global Short Film Awards Gala during the 71st Annual Cannes Film Festival. He has released three successful solo CDs, one of which has the unique distinction as the soundtrack for Barry Manilow’s daily workout. In addition to his one-man shows, Franc is also currently touring the world with The Four Phantoms In Concert.
Awards & Honors
The Cannes Film Festival
Lifetime Achievement Award
In recognition of Franc's outstanding work in Opera, Film, Television and Stage, and his international philanthropic contributions to promoting cross-cultural connections between music and the Arts
National Theatre Award Nomination
Best Male Performer in a Musical
for the lead role of "Tony" in Barry Manilow's Copacabana
Best Male Vocalist for his performance of “Panis Angelicus” - 1999
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Franc D’Ambrosio’s BROADWAY - 2005
The Saint Pio Award
In recognition of selfless contributions to society and one’s extraordinary example in relieving suffering to those in need
Italian Cultural Society Il Circolo Award
In honor of outstanding achievement and contributions to higher education and Italian language and culture
United States Senatorial Citation
For outstanding contributions to the Arts and invaluable service to the community
San Francisco Sidewalk Dedication
In recognition of his 2,000th performance
in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera
Special recognition for
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for his role in Godfather III
Best Male Voice in the Classical and Pop/Traditional categories for Barry Manilow's Copacabana
Emmy Award nomination
for his role as co-producer of The Three Masters on Ice, TBS Sports
Saint Pio Foundation’s award recognizing those who serve, advise and support the foundation in an exemplary way
United States Congressional
Certificate of Special Recognition
Outstanding contributions to the Arts and invaluable service to the community
Italian American Heritage
San Francisco Columbus Day Parade
Franc D'Ambrosio Day
Specially designated by the mayors of New York (2014) and San Francisco (1999)
Performances & roles
The Phantom of the Opera
Franc held the title "The World's Longest Running Phantom" for a period of ten years, playing the lead role more than 2,100 times for over 5 million theatre-goers (1992 - 1999).
Paramount Pictures sent five talent scouts on an international search to fill the part of Anthony Vito Corleone, the opera-singing son of Al Pacino and Diane Keaton's characters in the film (a role for which more than 2,000 actors auditioned). Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola cast Franc in the coveted role; he remains the only singer to perform the title theme "Speak Softly Love" in the Godfather trilogy (1990). Franc was also chosen to record the song for the film's Original Motion Picture Soundtrack; the haunting theme won an Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score in 1974.
Franc began his successful Broadway career in the debut of this iconic first revival, which went on to receive three Tony nominations (1989).
New York City Stage
Among Franc's many versatile stage roles are his critically-acclaimed performances in Kismet, A Little Night Music, She Loves Me, Valentino, Elizabeth Takes Her Leave, and Christmas Wrappings, among others. He has also appeared at the legendary Waxworks, Joe's Pub, Feinstein's 54 Below, and most recently at Carnegie Hall with The Four Phantoms In Concert (2018).
Franc was hand-picked by Barry Manilow to create and star in the lead role of "Tony" in the pre-Broadway tour, earning him a National Theatre Award nomination for Best Male Performer in a Musical (2000).
Broadway on Ice
Olympic champion figure skater Dorothy Hamill co-starred with Franc in this critically-acclaimed national tour produced by Willie Bietak Productions (2008).
National Television Specials
Franc performed live with Olympic champion Brian Boitano for a special production of Brian Boitano's Skating Spectacular (2005), followed by A Tribute to Movies on Ice (2005), both on NBC. He also paired with musical guests Michael Bolton, Ray Charles, Diana DiGarmo and Kathy Mattea in various one-of-a-kind Skating Tribute shows for NBC (1998 - 2006).
The legendary tenor personally invited Franc to live, work and study with him at his family home in Italy during the summer of 1990. Franc has described his one-on-one time with Pavarotti as a life-changing experience for which he will always be grateful.
National Touring Artist
In 2004, Franc debuted his highly-acclaimed one-man show Franc D'Ambrosio's BROADWAY: Songs of the Great White Way, which he continues to tour throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. His subsequent tour, titled Franc D'Ambrosio's HOLLYWOOD: Songs of the Silver Screen, debuted in 2007. A collection of recordings from both of these popular stage shows are featured in the CDs Franc D'Ambrosio's BROADWAY and Franc D'Ambrosio's HOLLYWOOD, which continue to be fan favorites on iTunes.
Franc is one of the featured singers on a CD titled In Good Company (LML Music) along with Michael Feinstein, Amanda McBroom, Maureen McGovern and others (released in 2005). He also sang his mesmerizing rendition of My Shining Hour on Johnny Mercer's album DREAM, based on the Broadway musical of the same name and featuring a musical revue of the songs of Johnny Mercer, recorded live at The 18th Annual Live S.T.A.G.E. Benefit Concert (1997).
Love Changes Everything: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber
Franc was chosen as one of the featured artists to perform in a special tribute to the famous composer at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh (July 8-14, 2011)
White Canvas Productions
Co-producer of 25 network television specials featuring Olympic and World champion figure skaters and big-name musical talent, including Barry Manilow, Michael Bolton, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles
Co-Founder and Chairman of the Accademia Vocale Lorenzo Malfatti
An opera and music school and summer music festival in Lucca, Italy, founded in 1996 to honor Franc’s mentor, the late American opera singer and voice teacher Lorenzo Malfatti