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Franc D’Ambrosio, star of San Francisco’s ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ brings show to Lodi

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Posted: Friday, July 20, 2012 7:34 am

Broadway actor, Luciano Pavarotti-trained opera singer and “World’s Longest Running Phantom” Franc D'Ambrosio is bringing everyone’s’ favorite theater songs to Hutchins Street Square on July 23.

D’Ambrosio played the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award winning musical “The Phantom of the Opera” in San Francisco.

He is bringing his solo show, “Franc D’Ambrosio’s Broadway” to Lodi for a night of his big voice, where he will sing songs from the “Great White Way” and selections from “Phantom of the Opera.”

Here, he talks about his career, what he sings in the shower and he indulges in.

Q: What is it like to star in one of the most popular musicals of all time, but to have a mask on the entire time? Do people recognize you on the street, since your face is never revealed?

A: I have spent most of my career in a mask. They obviously recognize the credits and recognize my name. For as long as I have (performed) in California ... they (recognize me).

Q: Was it grueling to play the same role over and over again, night after night?

A: No, it was never grueling to play the Phantom. What was grueling was the lifestyle that I needed to live to give the opening performance every night. It’s like a student studying for exams or a lawyer studying for boards — you’d be focused, eating 100-percent correctly, doing all these things. I had to live a very, very serious life.

Q: You now have a traveling solo show. What should we in Lodi expect from a night with you?

A: It’s going to be fun, fun, fun. It’s going to be an evening of song. It’s a show I’ve been touring for six years called “From the Bronx to Broadway and Beyond.” (It shares stories) from my Italian heritage, how I went from being primed to take over family business as a baker to performing on Broadway.

There will be songs from “Les Miserables,” “Follies,” “Man of La Mancha” — everyone’s favorite songs woven together.

Q: Where were you born and raised? Was your family supportive?

A: I was born and raised in and around the Bronx to a family of Italian bakers. They were looking out for my best interest ... how many people who want to be performers, if they can do it, actually (make it a career)?

(When I made it to Broadway,) I think they were surprised and proud. I’ve been doing this about 30 years now. It’s my life.

Q: When did you know you wanted music and theater to be a part of your life? Where did you study?

A: I always knew I wanted to be a performer. I thought I wanted to be an actor, but around the age of 17, (I started singing).

I went to the Hartt School of Music, and finished schooling in Italy at Lucca Vocal Academy. I also studied under Luciano Pavarotti.

Q: What was that like — studying in the home of a legendary tenor? Were you nervous?

A: Yes, I was very nervous! He was truly my vocal idol. We spent a lot of time listening to music. He let me watch him sing.

Q: What was one of the biggest lessons you learned from Pavarotti?

A: One of the biggest lessons I learned were the vocal techniques that he taught me.

Q: Was there anything that you learned about him that surprised you?

A: I found out that his wife and his three daughters all smoke cigarettes around him ... I was a little like, “Wow.”

Q: When you started the role of the Phantom, did you expect to play for that long or to be awarded “World’s Longest Running Phantom”?

A: I knew I wanted to play the role as long as the show was running in California, but one ever knows how long that will be —if it’s five years or 15 years or 25 years. I was committed.

Q: You’ve performed all over the world. What has been your favorite role?

A: Definitely the Phantom.

Q: What do you sing in the shower?

A: Actually, what I do is almost exclusively opera in the shower. I sing in the shower all the time.

Q: In “Phantom” and in your current show, what is your favorite part?

A: My favorite song from “Phantom” is also my favorite in the show: “Music of the Night,” the big song in “Phantom of the Opera.”

Q: Of all of your years on stage, what has been the biggest mishap?

A: There was a time in “Phantom” where I split my pants. I just made sure I never turned my back to the audience.

Q: If you were on a desert island, what three CDs would you take along and why?

A: Carole King’s “Tapestry,” because that was what I started singing. “James Taylor’s Greatest Hits” because I sang every single song. And “Pavarotti Singing Puccini” because he was and continues to be my biggest vocal inspiration.

Q: What is your biggest indulgence?

A: Painting. I like to paint. I do a lot of large abstracts on canvas.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A: My hair — I’d have more of it.

Q: If you could play any role in any musical, what would it be and why?

A: I think maybe I’ve already achieved it with “Phantom.” I still like people to write good music and good roles. I’d like to sing a new role in a new musical that had something to really offer to the world.

Q: You’ve done some film work, including the role of Anthony Corleone in “Godfather III.” Would you consider doing any other work in film?

A: If I was offered film work, I would definitely entertain the idea. My first love is storytelling through music — concerts, things along those lines.

Q: When you are not traveling, what do you enjoy doing, aside from painting?

A: I like to lecture. I like to give back to the young. I give master classes in Italy, as well as at Juilliard. I truly, truly, truly enjoy doing that.

Q: You have residences in both San Francisco and New York. What is one of your favorite things to do in San Francisco?

A: One of my favorite places to visit is the farmers market at the Ferry Building.  I like to spend the day there.

Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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