To the Opera via Hollywood: a Phantom’s journey

Brilliant, versatile, spiritual, funny and generous. Franc D’Ambrosio, an artist with a thousand faces, hidden for over 2,600 performances behind the shadow of the most fascinating and obscure mask of the theater musical, The Phantom of the Opera. D’Ambrosio’s resume also includes an Academy Award nominated film, an Emmy Award Nominated television show, a four time Tony Award nominated Broadway show, two Grammy Considerations, and a National Theatre Award Nomination.

The Los Angeles public has had the privilege of listening to him in an exciting concert at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music last October 28 on the occasion of a charity event organized by the Saint Pio Foundation during which donations were collected to be used for charity work of the San Pio of Pietralcina Home for Relief and Suffering in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.

Franc was born in New York City and is descended from a family of immigrants from southern Italy who settled in the U.S. from the early 1900’s. The scents, the traditions and the timeless Neapolitan and Sicilian melodies, filled up the days of his childhood until he was 16, when he decided to study singing.

“I grew up listening to Carlo Buti, Gino Paoli and the Neapolitan classics in my parents’ bakery,” says D’Ambrosio. “ Italian music has always been a vital part of my life”. Franc completed his studies at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, and during his Broadway debut in the revival of Sweeney Todd, he is noticed by Francis F. Coppola, who at that time was completing the casting of The Godfather Part III.

“After researching 2000 actors for three or more long years”, he continues, “I was chosen by Coppola and by five talent scouts to play the role of Anthony Corleone, the opera singer who was the son of Michael Corleone and Kay Adams”.

Franc D'ambrosi0 playing in his one man show called "Franc D'ambrosio's Broadway". Credit Archie Carpeter

What was a highlight of your role in The Godfather III?

First of all, it was very emotional to be able to work with big artists like Al Pacino and Diane Keaton. They were looking for a good actor that could be capable of singing the role of Mascagni’s Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and resembling, in some way, the protagonists. A unique experience that has positively marked the entire course of my career.

How did the training with Luciano Pavarotti come about? Describe your experience studying with him.

Luciano Pavarotti himself invited me to his residence in Pesaro after having listened to my interpretation of Turiddu in The Godfather III. I perfected my technique with him for over three months. An exceptional artist who never stopped studying and getting involved. Even when he was on vacation, he was always busy preparing new roles to broaden his repertoire. “You are never too old to continue to learn your craft, it is an outgoing process”, he would say.

As the world’s longest running Phantom of the Opera, could you describe some of the challenges you faced while cast in the production?

On Broadway we usually perform 8 shows in 6 days. The main challenges were to always be absolutely vocally healthy and focused on your work; continuing to be professional and understand that there are certain sacrifices that one must do in order to have a great opening performance every night.

Was it difficult to act with half of your face covered by a mask?

Wherever it was impossible to communicate with my face, all of the other senses became intensified. A form of communication made for the most part of gestures that accompanied the singing - a very full physical experience.

You are currently performing in your own Broadway show, what can people expect to see and hear?

The show is called Franc D’Ambrosio’s Broadway, and it’s an autobiographical tale about an Italian – American kid who goes from a family of bakers in the Bronx to Broadway and beyond. A one man Broadway format show during which I perform songs from my entire career and I make some jokes about my Italian American heritage.

I read that you have an interest in painting. Describe how you discovered this passion.

About 6 years ago, during the period of Lent, I decided to deepen my Catholic roots and fully devote myself to rediscovering my spirituality. I recited the rosary and read the Bible everyday and during prayer I began to see sacred images and soon afterwards I found myself reproducing them in a visual manner, despite the fact of ever having painted before. It was a blessing, a spiritual experience that I truly believe came from God.

What non profit organizations are you singing with?

Donating my time and my art to help people in need makes me happy. I work with many non-profit organizations: The American Cancer Society, the Brain Tumor Foundation, The Saint Pio Foundation, the Vocal Academy of Lorenzo Malfatti and many others.

What type of legacy would you want to leave behind in the world?

I would like to be remembered for always giving my best on every occasion that life has granted me with. At times I failed, but at other times I was able to carry out my intentions; either way, it was all worth it.