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    Interview With the Phantom of the Opera Star Franc D’Ambrosio, Who Will Be Headlining Rock the CASA on April 27

    “I strive for truth in everything—in others and in myself.”
    —Franc D’Ambrosio

    Franc D’Ambrosio sings with such skill, passion, and focus that audiences are left dazzled and mesmerized. It is little wonder that he has developed a loyal following beyond his holding the title of “The World’s Longest-Running Phantom” for his over 2,100 performances of playing the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning musical The Phantom of the Opera. D’Ambrosio is captivating on stage no matter the material, from romantic Broadway ballads to humorous stories about his colorful family in the Bronx. He even beautifully croons to his and Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano’s rescue dog “Hunter” (

    While they have a home in San Francisco, D’Ambrosio often performs and teaches abroad. He has been doing so for decades and even lived and studied with famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1935–2007) in the summer of 1991, later founding the Lorenzo Malfatti Vocal Academy in Lucca, Italy, for students of opera and musical theatre.

    Italian culture threads through his career. As the opera-singing Anthony Corleone, son of Al Pacino and Diane Keaton’s characters in the seven-time Academy Award-nominated film Godfather III, D’Ambrosio performed the theme song “Speak Softly Love” for both the film and Original Motion Picture soundtrack. A revised version of the movie debuted in theaters in December 2021 with a new title: Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.

    In July 2022, D’Ambrosio was personally invited by the legendary Andrea Bocelli to perform in two private concerts at his estate in Forte di Marmi, Italy, accompanied on piano by Bocelli’s longtime composer and vocal coach, Maestro Carlo Bernini. Until meeting Bocelli at the first concert, D’Ambrosio was unaware that his performance in Godfather III inspired the iconic tenor to record his own version of the Academy Award-winning theme song.

    In addition to his acting and singing accomplishments, D’Ambrosio is a highly-regarded painter whose abstract acrylic paintings are displayed in San Francisco’s ArtHaus Gallery and in the permanent collection at the Museo Italo Americano, as well as in some of the most iconic homes in the U.S. and Europe.

    What is not as well known is that D’Ambrosio has dyslexia and has worked to help others with the learning disorder. In 2020, he was a special guest at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s The Other Side of the Brain: Exploring Emotion and Music in Dyslexia, presented in cooperation with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and the Global Brain Health Institute.

    His generosity goes beyond that effort. In reaction to the refugee crisis in Ukraine, D’Ambrosio and Boitano began hosting a series of benefit concerts in 2023 across the U.S. to raise funds for the Western Dominican Friars, who provide food, shelter, medical and psychological care to refugees streaming into Poland from Ukraine. To date, he and Boitano have led the charge to raise over $1 million.

    He will be performing on April 27, 2024, at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek for Dan Ashley’s annual fundraiser Rock the CASA benefiting Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) Contra Costa County, Friends of Camp Concord, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Contra Costa. It will be the fundraiser’s 10th Anniversary, so the evening will also feature the Oakland Symphony, a special tribute to Tina Turner, and more.

    Ahead of this event, we caught up with the multi-talented D’Ambrosio.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Like Dan Ashley, you are a Renaissance man of so many talents: singing, acting, and painting for a start. Please share one of your earliest memories of feeling deeply connected to the arts.

    Franc D’Ambrosio: My earliest memory of feeling connected to the arts was being exposed to PBS as a child watching Great Performances. Anything to do with music, singing, dancing, the history of the arts and entertainment—the performances—all of it intrigued me. I was riveted. 

    San Francisco Bay Times: Who, such as Luciano Pavarotti, were some of your most influential early influences?

    Franc D’Ambrosio: Luciano Pavarotti was definitely an early source of inspiration; I was fortunate to live and study with Luciano and his family in Italy for an entire summer in the late 90s, and it was magical. But well before that, my Mom and Dad had an extensive music collection of Italian singers like Mario Lanza, Jimmy Roselli, Dean Martin, Vic Damone—predominantly Italian singers in the 50s and 60s—(and also) Dionne Warwick. I would sit and listen to records for hours on end and couldn’t get enough of it. 

    San Francisco Bay Times: Speaking of Pavarotti, we fondly remember seeing him often in San Francisco back in the day—frequently shopping! When did you first visit San Francisco, and what was your initial impression of the city?

    Franc D’Ambrosio: My first visit to San Francisco was when I was doing Sweeney Todd on Broadway and the producers flew me out for the first of two screen tests for Godfather III. They put me up in Little Italy because it was close to Club Fugazi where the interviews were conducted. I had never heard of Beach Blanket Babylon, which was in production there at the time, and I was mesmerized with all the big hats, wigs, and costumes backstage. Another vivid memory of that first trip to San Francisco was being introduced to Chinese food in Chinatown. It was incredible!   

    San Francisco Bay Times: Most of our readers likely know you from The Phantom of the OperaThe Godfather, and your incredible solo performances at venues such as Feinstein’s at the Nikko, which members of our team have enjoyed over the years. We admire how you have dedicated significant time toward helping, either indirectly through charitable work or directly through mentoring, youth who might not otherwise have such support. You have always seemed to have a passion for teaching. Please share why this is important to you, and how you hope to make a positive difference.

    Franc D’Ambrosio: I benefited greatly from early scholarships and the mentoring of professor Lorenzo Malfatti, an American opera singer and voice teacher, which made it possible for me to put myself through school, take voice lessons, and spend significant time immersed in the culture of Italy. These opportunities made an enormous impact on my life and led to the pursuit of my career in music and entertainment.   

    It’s so important to give back, and I love being able to help young singers fulfill their dreams. Lorenzo Malfatti had a significant influence in my life—so much so that I named my school after him (the Lorenzo Malfatti Vocal Academy in Lucca, Italy). It’s a charitable 501C3 organization, and we bring students from all over the world to Lucca every summer to study opera, voice technique, Italian language, acting, style, and diction. Last year we raised enough money to provide scholarships to every member of the 2023 class.   

    San Francisco Bay Times: How did you first learn about Rock the CASA, and why did you decide to get involved with this year’s special 10th Anniversary fundraiser?

    Franc D’Ambrosio: I became involved in Rock the CASA through my close friendship with Dan Ashley at ABC. Anything Dan associates himself with is handled with the utmost integrity, class, and philanthropic spirit, so when he reaches out to me, I will always answer the call. Dan is a mentor and pillar of our community. Whatever he becomes involved in is always of the highest quality, and the charities that will benefit from this year’s event are well-respected organizations that support youth in our community.   

    Children are our future and, like Dan, I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to help our youth succeed in life, both personally and professionally. I know first-hand how the support of others can change a person’s life in unexpected and surprising ways. 

    San Francisco Bay Times: What other projects are you working on now?

    Franc D’Ambrosio: I still perform in concerts all over the world with my one-man shows celebrating the music of Broadway, and I am always working to raise funds for my school in Italy. Several years ago, I founded a group called The Four Phantoms In Concert, and we just finished production on a PBS television special in late March. The show will air in late summer during PBS’s annual pledge drive. The Four Phantoms tour travels all over the U.S. and abroad, so between that and my solo shows, I stay quite busy. 

    No matter where I travel in the world, whenever I come back to San Francisco, it’s a comforting feeling to know I’m coming home.   

    For More Information

    Rock the CASA on April 27:
    Franc D’Ambrosio:

    Franc D’Ambrosio: Art and Sculpture

    Arts and Entertainment
    Published on April 18, 2024