Frank Tenaglia, 54, of Bridesburg, a noted opera singer who performed to standing ovations throughout the United States and Europe, died Sunday, Feb. 17, of a pulmonary embolism in Marathon, Fla.
Mr. Tenaglia had contended with health problems for a long time, but his death was unexpected, said his wife, Cathy. “We were enjoying a family vacation in Florida when he suddenly became ill,” she said. ”He went quickly and was not in any pain.”
Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Mr. Tenaglia attended public schools, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts.
At the age of 13, he surprised his parents, Frank and Dorothy, by singing along with a Christmas album featuring the South Philadelphia film star and tenor Mario Lanza. Realizing that their son had a beautiful voice and perfect pitch, his parents arranged for singing lessons.
Starting in his late teens, he began singing, and in time, Mr. Tenaglia’s career took off. He sang in Germany and Italy. He performed in concerts and music festivals along the Atlantic seaboard and in Hollywood, Milwaukee, and Washington. More than once, he sang the national anthem at banquets attended by the president and other dignitaries.
In Philadelphia, he was known for his collaboration with Peter Nero, founding music director and conductor of the Philly Pops. The most notable of the concerts was a 2010 tribute to Lanza at the Kimmel Center.
Nero was fond of Mr. Tenaglia and praised his performances, said John Durso, Mr. Tenaglia’s personal manager. “Along with a rare warmth and solid musicianship, he [has] instant communication with his audience, as evidenced by consistent standing ovations,” Durso quoted Nero as saying.
Nero, now in Florida, posted his condolences online: “I was proud to have presented him to our Philly Pops audiences. His talent and tenacity will be remembered and cherished.”
Joseph Lovecchio, music director of the Warminster Symphony Orchestra, knew Mr. Tenaglia for 20 years and performed with him five times.
“He was a big guy with a big personality,” Lovecchio said. “Opera is different from pop singing; sometimes the personality doesn’t come through the voice. But Frank had the technique, and his personality came through as well. He was a humorous and kind person.”
Durso said Mr. Tenaglia had performed arias with the Greater Miami Opera Company and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. Lately, Mr. Tenaglia had not only sung opera, but also popular songs. The latter made him a draw for a mainstream audience.
Durso called Mr. Tenaglia “a joy” to work with.
“He’d have you in stitches,” Durso said. He was fun-loving, and that carried over to all his performances. He used humor on the stage to defuse any anxiety he had.”
Mr. Tenaglia was honored by the Metropolitan Opera Council, Luciano Pavarotti International Competition, Sergio Franchi Foundation, and Mario Lanza Institute, and inducted into the South Philadelphia Cultural Hall of Fame in 2005.
Mr. Tenaglia married Catherine Eckl in 1998. “I will miss him making me laugh every day, and his devotion to his family and friends,” she said. “I will miss hearing his voice whether singing or talking on his phone with friends.”
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a brother, John, and a niece and nephew.
A viewing will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, followed by a second viewing starting at 9 a.m. Friday, March 1, both at the Monti-Rago Funeral Home Inc. 2531 S. Broad St. A funeral service will begin at 10:30. Entombment will be in Calvary Cemetery, Cherry Hill.