The complexity of music is never “all Greek” to celebrated tenor Mario Frangoulis. Sometimes it is also French, Italian, Spanish and, even, English.
“I also sing in German,” he laughs, but don’t really speak the language very well,” adds the international recording artist, who makes his San Francisco debut at Nourse Theater on Friday.
Zimbabwe was still the British colony of Rhodesia when Frangoulis was born there in 1967. At age 4, he was sent to Athens to live with his aunt and uncle, and by 6 he began a lifetime of musical experience and training that includes the Maria Callas Scholarship for Opera, concerts on PBS, and theater roles in Athens and London’s West End.
“My grandmother sort of raised me,” he says. “She came from Istanbul, truly loved classical music and was a great inspiration to me in so many ways.”
One was her sense of philanthropy. “She was always helping other families whenever she felt they had a need,” he recalls. “She also installed in me this amazing need for education and to better my circumstances, even though I was just a young boy.”
Unsurprisingly, a portion of proceeds from his concert tour will support Apostoli (Mission) and the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), which provides care to families in Greece.
Frangoulis is heartbroken to witness the economic difficulties in his homeland. “People lose their jobs, have cuts in pensions and young people can’t even afford to get to school. There’s a lot of poverty and homelessness.”
His tone is almost reverent with the hope, he says, that “we are able to preserve our culture and traditions, and love and support each other, and, I hope, make better choices politically.
“I feel that I have to give back somehow,” he continues, “because it’s not just about a career and creating a name for yourself. If you just become famous, then you’re left with nothing. You have to leave something behind. And it’s good to influence young people’s lives and to help those who are less fortunate.”
An obvious legacy would be children of his own. Frangoulis has considered this carefully, given his own experience.
“You have to really spend quality time with your children and make sure that they get the best of you. I travel a lot and would not want my children raised by a nanny,” he says. “I didn’t see my parents again until I was 8. I’m still close to my mother, but back then I felt abandoned. I don’t want to do that to a child.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $35 to $150