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Events

Mario Frangoulis to Light up AHI 50th Anniversary Concert in Washington, DC

ATHENS – Mario Frangoulis, the international tenor whose performances are always a celebration of life, delights in anniversaries, his own and others’.  On Friday, April 12 at the famed Warner Theater in Washington, DC, he headlines a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI). The theater is also marking its 100th year, and 2024 is the 35th since the beginning of

Frangoulis’ career.

He and his fans are also excited about his 23rd album, which will be released in April, a collaboration with artists who are dear to him, like Marinella and Alkistis Protopsalti, and features many of his favorite Greek and non-Greek songs. “It’s a nice Easter gift,” he said, with Orthodox Easter on May 5th.

Frangoulis’ present is always a continuous tribute to the past, especially the people who have been meaningful and helpful to him on his journey. Entering his home near Athens, we were greeted by Mario and… Maria Callas – whose 100th birthday was celebrated last year. “I love her very much,” he said, pointing to several striking images. “From my childhood, when I began with music and listening to opera, Maria Callas was the absolute persona for me. Beyond her magnificent voice, she was a peerless interpreter of the roles she played… I become emotional when I hear her voice.”

A deep admirer and student of the voices of the past half century, Frangoulis spotlighted Jose Carreras, the first great one he heard live. His voice, stage presence, and acting of the great tenor made a lasting impact even though young Frangoulis did not know his voice would mature in that range. Now a crossover luminary with triumphs in classical music, American standards, and musical theater, he is a crossover star as an actor too, taking pride in performances of classical Greek plays at Epidavros, and even a moving turn at the amphitheater at Pergamum in Asia Minor, as well.

Constantinople is one of the places dear to him – where he was honored to have been invited to sing by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and where his grandmother was born. Kerkyra is special, too, because that is where she had 13 children, including Frangoulis’ mother.

The artist himself was born in Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe, but he was sent to Athens to be raised by his dear aunt. In his essence, he is a ‘nisioti’ – an islander. His father, from Kasos, has ship captain ancestors and he proudly notes “many Frangoulis helped build the Suez Canal.” Singer Alkistis Protopsalti is his cousin. The late beloved actress and singer Rena Vlahopoulou, his aunt, was his mother’s first cousin.

Travel is in Frangoulis’ genes and his bones. His journeys have brought him renown – but also, love. Everywhere there are people who love him and wait for him, which makes him happy. “But also, I meet the Greeks who are there. That is important to me. In Japan, we had four thousand people and one Greek family in the audience, but they were waving the Greek flag… I feel very proud to be Greek and to be performing for Greeks everywhere.”

During performances, he lives the music, which is imbued with his life, his journeys, the people he meets, as well as the great Greek musicians, especially the creations of Hadjidakis, Theodorakis, Xarhakos, Markopoulos, etc. Hellas is blended into his art and life: “In London, my first theatrical home – where many great Greek artists have performed and been adored – at the Palace Theater, I played Marius in Les Miserables – and the stage door, was on Greek Street!”

Marilyn Horne was so impressed that she launched him on another adventure, attending Juilliard in New York – “I became a student again!” He had earlier won a Maria Callas scholarship.

Onstage, he gives to the audiences like few others – and it’s also important for him to ‘give back’ to society. “It’s important because as you build your career, singing all over the world, you see that not everybody is an fortunate as I am, to have this God-given talent.  It’s also incredible to me that in this day in age you still have wars and so many children have lost their families and suffer,” that is why “I lend my voice to certain charities” – as UNESCO Ambassador, former UNICEF Ambassador, and supporter of Betty Williams’ World Centers of Compassion.

As a Hellene, he is devoted to ‘never forget’ regarding causes like Cyprus. “It’s a big honor that I was invited to sing at the AHI concert.” For him, “it’s very important that AHI works to strengthen relations between the U.S., Greece, and Cyprus… We are supporting this amazing triangle of vital relations” with the concert, “always hoping Cyprus will be solved.”

Mario and friends have prepared a great concert,

with 30 musicians led by Stathis Soulis, “an amazing young conductor who has been featured with operas at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Theresa Carlomagno is only 25 years old but she is a very talented soprano. I thought she would be ideal for those songs… with all those high notes for Phantom, Traviata, My Fair Lady.”

Frangoulis will sing “all the great and inspiring songs” that have made his career so special, saying, “we will perform the great moments, which are the proud moments of Greece, too,” creations of the great Greek composers.

Frangoulis is also a composer. “A number of the songs I will perform are mine, like ‘Mikros Prinkipas’, which is inspired by the Little Prince. “He is connected with us, Frangoulis said. “All of us have some of the Little Prince in us that we need to keep nurturing so we can feel as young as we were when we were young, so we aren’t affected only by war and poverty, but also by the beautiful things in life – watching a lovely sunset or being with a good friend at a table in a taverna, and you say ‘life is beautiful!’ Greece gives us such moments, the islands, good company, and friends.”

Surely, Frangoulis is preparing a wonderful journey for the Warner Theater audience.

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