There’s no mistaking when Mario Frangoulis takes the stage. The only thing that is crisper than his clothes is his remarkable voice. A sterling tenor that has taken this singer-actor to some of the world’s greatest stages and allowed him to perform in opera, classical theater and popular West End musicals. Born in Africa and raised in Greece, Frangoulis was trained at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he was discovered by legendary Broadway creator Sir Cameron Mackintosh. His “Mario Frangoulis: Sing Me An Angel” tour launches on Saturday, March 25th at the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University in Cambridge. The concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available. (https://www.mariofrangoulis.com/concerts)
STYLEBOSTON: Classical performers, particularly tenors, are known for being put together (tux, tails), but traditionally haven’t been known as fashion-forward trendsetters (those tux, tails). And then there’s you. You have made headlines for your “style.” Where does your sense of style come from?
MARIO: I have always cared about fashion and how it is influenced by the various changes in our society, the political climate, the style of music and the arts. In so many ways, styling itself gives an “identity” to an artist, “signature” clothes, and one’s own style. I have been extremely lucky to meet great designers at such a young age in my life and career. Donna Karan, for example, dressed me on my first album “Sometimes I Dream.” Valentino designed my first tuxedos early on in my career and let me launch his Red Label tuxedos. Giorgio Armani designed all of the suits, costumes and clothes for the movie “De Lovely” starring Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd in which I wore a great Shakespearean period costume designed by Armani himself! He was also a very cool person to meet. Lately I have been dressed exclusively by Ermenegildo Zegna.
STYLEBOSTON: Do you have a favorite designer? A favorite piece in your wardrobe?
MARIO: I had the chance to meet the unique Ralph Lauren at an exclusive party at Bloomingdales and I have to admit that his casual-wear clothes are the best! Very comfortable and all time classic. I have many jackets by Ralph Lauren that I also wear with jeans for press conferences and casual smart occasions. One of my very favorite designers these days is Tom Ford. His tuxedos are incredible —especially the great thick and old-fashioned but contemporary lapels. Tom Ford’s tuxedo has to be my favorite piece in my entire wardrobe!
STYLEBOSTON: Just as you have made an impression for your style, you are known for your versatility on stage. Do you prefer traditional opera over Broadway or West End musicals? How does traditional Greek music fit into your repertoire?
MARIO: Opera is my first love. West End musicals, however, especially “Les Miserables” was my first big adventure on stage. The costumes were actually designed by the Greek-Cypriot English costume and Tony Award-winning designer Andreane Neofitou. Playing Marius, the romantic lead, gives me so much theatrical and stage experience.
As you said in your question, I truly enjoy being versatile on stage, and this really represents who I am. I enjoy being different in every role I play: from Raoul in “The Phantom of the Opera” to Tony in “West Side Story” at Teatro Alla Scala to the King in “The King and I” and so many leading roles in ancient Greek drama, like “Prometheus Bound,” a Titan who defies the gods and gives fire to mankind, acts for which he is subjected to perpetual punishment. Achilles was a great role for me in the ancient theatre in Epidaurus in the year of the Olympic games in 2004. It was the first time this great Ancient Greek play was presented after 2,500 years. It is a trilogy by the great dramatist Aeschylus and was so full of great adventures, heroic battles and fate itself which one cannot escape from. Dionysus, however in “The Bacchae” was the most challenging of all roles. Dionysus, the protagonist of Euripides, “Bacchae,” is one big contradiction. The character embodies many of the dualities that we see throughout the play. First of all, in some ways he represents both human and god. Dionysus definitely has all the powers of a god. He summons earthquakes, lightning, and has a knack for getting into people’s heads, driving them insane!
Another interesting duality is that Dionysus is foreign and Greek at the same time. He was born in Greece, but his religion, for some reason, first spread in Asia. Another contradiction is that Dionysus in some ways represents both male and female. Yes, he is a male god, but the mortal form he takes is said to be quite effeminate. Dionysus also had a strange birth. The play itself is full of dualities and that is what I love about it!
Perhaps the play is trying to say that everything that exists is also its opposite at the very same time—more specifically, that we as human beings are inherently contradicted. We’re all both rational and irrational. All humans are animals, but there’s also something special that undeniably separates us from the rest of Earth’s living creatures.
Though we all (or at least most of us) belong to one gender or another, there are things about all of us that don’t quite fit into the role that society prescribes to specific sexes. Even though everybody is from somewhere, we’re all a foreigner somewhere else. Sometimes we even become foreigners in our own homes. Lastly, even though we’re certainly mortal, maybe, just maybe, some part of us is eternal and divine. It seems to us, that in the character of Dionysus, Euripides captured many of the amazing contradictions that make up every human being.
In music and in theater, I must be flexible, adapting to what’s happening around me, and experimenting with new and unique combinations of music and acting skills—this also translates to my sense of personal style. Life is a mosaic of experiences that make up who we are—there is no one “right” way to do anything…everything I do has to do with my truth, my feelings and my identity. That is why Greek music is always part of my repertoire—not only because of the beauty of the language, but also because it is core to who I am and my identity as a human being. I can’t imagine a performance without Greek music…my style is the same way… in everything I do I strive for simplicity… I was trained to respect simplicity in my voice/singing, I was raised to admire simplicity in my personal life, and my aesthetic reflects this value.
STYLEBOSTON: Do you have a favorite stage to perform on or favorite venue to perform in? A favorite performer to appear with? Or, symphony to perform with? (No pressure to say Symphony Hall or the Boston Pops…)
MARIO: I love Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops! Symphony Hall in Boston is an amazing venue and acoustically one of the best in the world. We did an “epic” show there in 2012 that aired on public television across the country and I will never forget it. I have performed in Boston many times. It is one of my favorite cities to perform in. I love the combination of history with young energy (all the students). It has a European feel to it, and it is next to the ocean, which is so beautiful. Of course performing in venues like Milan’s La Scala and my favorite Herod Atticus at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens is tough competition! But Boston is certainly up there!
I have had the pleasure of performing with such a huge range of talented artists—from Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to Justin Hayward and Klaus Meine to Lara Fabian and Sarah Brightman to Natalie Cole, Tina Arena and Smokey Robinson. The list goes on and on!
What I have enjoyed so much about Boston are the fantastic young and talented musicians, many of them from Berklee College of Music. I have a passion for supporting young musicians and I love to walk the halls at night when we are rehearsing and feel the energy of all of that great young talent ready to take over the world.
STYLEBOSTON: How did it come to be that Boston was the first location on this US tour?
MARIO: We have been talking with my team for a while about returning to one of my favorite venues in Boston—the Sanders Theatre at Harvard. That theatre is amazing and the acoustics are fantastic. We’ve always performed great shows on that stage full of amazing positive energy. I always get so much energy and love from this city and have many friends here who I can call my family. We decided that since WGBH has been such a supporter over the years, and we got a great date to start the 2017 concert series here, why not “come home” to Boston?
STYLEBOSTON: Do you have any favorite haunts, places or stops in Boston?
MARIO: Of course I love to walk around the Boston Common and Newbury Street; Harvard Square and brunch at the Charles Hotel is always a great favorite! Lobster and crab at Legal Sea Foods on the Harbor is great as well. There is a long list and it, of course, includes Symphony Hall, and also Harvard Yard. I love to walk in Boston. Bostonians have a certain casual sophistication that makes me feel very at ease.
All eyes are on the energetic – and telegenic — Andris Nelsons when he bounds across the stage of Boston Symphony Hall to take his place at the conductor’s podium, his sheer physicality a performance unto itself. At 35 years old, Nelsons is one of the youngest and most electrifying conductors on the international scene today and the youngest music director to lead the BSO in more than 100 years. He might also be the only one to have ever been a student of martial arts. Prior to his arrival in Boston, the Latvia native was music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), where he earned critical acclaim. Born in Riga to a family of musicians, Nelsons began his career as a trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra before studying to be conductor. He is married to the internationally renowned soprano Kristine Opolais, who joined him on stage for his first opening night leading the storied Boston Symphony Orchestra.
AS A YOUNG CONDUCTOR, WHAT DID THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA MEAN TO YOU? WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS?
As a music student growing up in Latvia, I was aware of the leading position of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), one of the world’s greatest orchestras. I followed the careers of several BSO‘s legendary music directors, especially Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Erich Leinsdorf, and Seiji Ozawa, and more recently, James Levine. I remember listening to many BSO recordings and feeling overwhelmed by the extraordinary performances. I never imagined that I would become this orchestra’s music director!
WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE ABOUT BOSTON AUDIENCES FOR YOU SO FAR?
The enthusiasm that the Boston audiences has shown to me, has touched me deeply. I have always heard that the Boston audiences were passionate music lovers—and it is very true! They also are generous in expressing pride and love for the orchestra. The BSO has been a great inspiration and joy for many of our patrons. My hope is to do all I can to continue to inspire them to ever greater levels of satisfaction and reward.
IS THE ORCHESTRA DIFFERENT TODAY THAN WHEN YOU FIRST GUEST-CONDUCTED IN 2011?
I don’t know that I can speak to how different the orchestra is today than it was in 2011. When I conducted the orchestra for the first time in March 2011, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and power the orchestra displayed in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. It is a very difficult piece of music, but we developed quickly a good connection and were able to make incredible music together. My joy nearly four years later comes from getting to know the orchestra better. I enjoy meeting and getting to know each individual musician, knowing them by name. This helps us work better together and make some great music.
WE’RE IN THE AGE OF “NEW” MEDIA. DID YOUR TRAINING AS A MUSICIAN AND A CONDUCTOR PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR NEW ROLE AS HOLOGRAM AT SYMPHONY HALL?
I have never participated in the creation of a hologram before, so it was fun to see how they created the 3D image. It’s both strange and exciting to stand next to your own talking and moving hologram – and I was happy to see that I have lost some weight since recording the image last July! I hope our wonderful patrons enjoyed this technology, and that the hologram and overall exhibit communicated some interesting and new information, especially to newcomers to the BSO.
IS THE ROLE OF CONDUCTOR OF A WORLD-CLASS ORCHESTRA OF THE 21’ST CENTURY DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS FOR YOUR HISTORIC COUNTERPARTS?
I would say that it is a faster moving world today, of course it is, and this pace applies to all aspects of modern life! However, in contrast, the fundamental role of the conductor has not changed so much at all on the podium. This profession is still based on personal communication and it rather stands the test of time in this sense. It’s such a magical and of historic profession.
BOSTON HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING A FAIRLY TRADITIONAL CITY. CAN YOU GIVE US A PREVIEW OF ANY EXCITING, NEW WORK YOU’LL BE INTRODUCING?
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has always presented many new interesting compositions with major composers as Bartok, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Babbitt, Birtwistle, Carter, and Saariaho, and many others, and also significant premieres. So there is no doubt that with the great repertoire that we all love so deeply—music of Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, etc.—we will also explore works by new composers and go back to some of the works of the 20th and 21st centuries that have made the recent history of classical music. Sophia Gubaidulina’s Offertorium is a great example of bringing back a late 20th century work that is now considered a masterpiece of our field—and Baiba Skride’s recent performances captured the extraordinary sound of Ms. Gubaidulina’s composition. This season we’ve also programmed works by Boston composers Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, and Michael Gandolfi, as well as works by Australian composer Brett Dean and my Latvian compatriot Eriks Esenvalds. Our audiences have responded very enthusiastically to what we have performed so far. We will continue to explore new works and bring the very best of music to our wonderful patrons.
For further information about the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a complete spring schedule, visit Boston Symphony or click here for complete programs, ticket information, photos, press documents, and artist bios.
Newsflash: your hobby is boring. Because with all due respect, it probably doesn’t compare to the long, arduous hours that sculptor Ian Schneller put into this project, an installation of over 30 colorful horn speakers he made from strange odds and ends like dryer lint and baking soda. What do they play? Why, composer Andrew Bird’s 50-minute whistle- and violin-driven composition “Echolocations,” originally recorded in a canyon to capture unique reverberations. Sorry, but your decoupage project pales in comparison.
WHERE: The Institute of Contemporary Art
WHEN: February 4 — May 10
Pianist Olga Kern joins the famed soprano for this Celebrity Series performance. Fleming’s powerhouse vocals will be front and center for a recital tour that includes operatic arias alongside favorite classics from the Great American Songbook. We’re crossing our fingers for a few selections from “Dark Hope,” the diva’s genre-defying album that offered sultry, jazz-inflected covers of songs as disparate as Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.”
WHERE: Symphony Hall
WHEN: February 8
GREEN PORNO, LIVE ON STAGE
Mercifully, this has nothing to do with a new sustainability campaign from Kim Kardashian. (Exhale, everyone.) Rather, it’s a one-woman show from Isabella Rossellini, based on a series of short films that the actress-model created for the Sundance Channel. Armed with an arsenal of whimsical props and cheeky costumes, Rossellini offers a zoology class on the bizarre mating rituals of insects and marine life, sort of like “Sesame Street” for the kinky set. Sex-based provocation is nothing new to Rossellini, who made a curious cameo in Madonna’s infamous 1992 coffee table book, “Sex,” and this uproarious, oddity-filled evening sounds like the perfect Valentine’s Day surprise for irreverent lovebirds.
WHERE: Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre
WHEN: February 13 — 15
EDITOR AT LARGE
CHIEF FASHION CORRESPONDENT
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