A vigorous marketing effort on the part of the giant Sony Classical label accompanied the 2002 release of the Mario Frangoulis album Sometimes I Dream, a crossover collection of operatic arias, cinematic selections, and popular songs that found instant fame when it was featured on the national fundraising drive of the Public Broadcasting System. Lavish advertising featuring the photogenic Frangoulis in sun-drenched Greek landscapes might have left the impression that Sony was promoting him as the pretty face and beautiful voice of the moment, but in fact, Frangoulis was merely taking a logical next step in an already well-established career.
The tenor vocalist's early years were his most tumultuous. He was born in white-ruled Rhodesia in southern Africa in the midst of the upheavals that led to black majority rule and to the country's renaming as Zimbabwe. At the age of four, he was sent to live with an aunt in Greece. Records of Greek popular song and of Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand would usually stir him to sing along. Attending a private, English-language school in Athens, Frangoulis was inspired by a drama teacher to dream of becoming an actor. He went to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and soon he won parts in top West End productions such as Les Misérables and 1991's The Phantom of the Opera. As a youth, Frangoulis had disliked opera, but an Athens performance of Carmen starring José Carreras and Agnes Baltsa changed his mind. When a friend suggested he enter the Maria Callas Prize competition, Frangoulis signed up on a lark.
Emerging the winner, Frangoulis found himself juggling musical theater and classical careers. He studied opera for three years at the Juilliard School in New York, was mentored by Marilyn Horne, and became the only private student ever accepted by veteran Spanish tenor Alfredo Kraus. The first of many operatic recitals Frangoulis offered in the 1990s was a 1991 concert with soprano Montserrat Caballé. When he returned to popular music, as in a 1995 Covent Garden performance of The King and I, it was with an impressive depth of technique that, along with his good looks, made him a European favorite in concert. Frangoulis signed with Sony in 1999 and seemed well on his way to worldwide crossover fame, but he also pursued innovative projects such as Axion Esti, a collaboration with Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.