By Christopher A. Pape
Resident (R): How did you get into the business?
Anna Bergman (AB): I was born in Paris and my Dad was a diplomat; he was a big influence on me. I studied with the Vienna State Opera Ballet School; I was the little girl in the front row. They gave me a choice at 12 if I wanted to be a professional dancer, but I loved singing and I loved acting and all the things you can’t do as a ballerina, so I decided not to focus on that. I majored in drama at Vasser College in addition to the fellowship to study Opera. Following, I went to Aspen Music School to continue my studies.
An international background has helped my career. Like ballet, I didn’t feel at one with Opera, what I loved was acting and singing and putting it together; I gravitated to musical theater. When I got to New York, the concert doors opened for me. I sang for Peter Howard, a famous Broadway conductor, who brought me to Lyrics and Lyricist at 92nd Street Y. This eventually led to me signing at Carnegie Hall. As a daughter of a diplomat, I was always very aware that I was representing America so I really wanted to keep American musical heritage alive.
R: Do you have a favorite composer?
AB: I really love Noël Coward; in fact my favorite part of my album is Noël Coward melodies. I have a rapport with his music. He was a great composer but also a great poet; his lyrics were incredible. I also love Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. All of these great composers and lyricists suffered in childhood or adulthood in some way, so I find them to be particularly profound. I love music that allows emotion to come through but I love words too, which is why I didn’t stay with Opera. They used to say, don’t look at the actors; prima la voce - first the voice - just fill the room with your voice. What inspires me though is the fact that I see our music as our greatest export - my show is called Imports and Exports - Broadway music is not mainstream; it’s not on radio so we have to perform it to preserve it.
R: Tell us about your performances.
AB: Your readers will remember the great Kitty Carlisle Hart. Kitty was very close with Michael Feinstein. She had this fabulous upper east side apartment, and she had these salons where she would invite the Crème de la crème, and she would invite me to sing. One night we stayed afterwards and just had a bit of wine and I told her when I was a kid my parents had salons all the time. I said I wanted to revive the art of the salon, so she suggested we do it! We got down to invitations, and friends opened up their great houses. My friends on Embassy Row in DC heard and said they wanted in too. Next thing I knew, I’m on Public Television doing one of these salons. It aired on PBS in six states. We are going to do one for 9/11 for the people who are still affected by it and the first responders.
R: What does it mean to be a New Yorker?
AB: They say it’s the center of the universe and it really is. Again, as a diplomat’s daughter I always lived in Capital Cities. I perform all over the world and New York is so diverse so we have connections to the whole world. But my favorite part is the people; they all have such energy for life and make the most of it. You can’t beat the culture.
R: I heard you have a great story on how you met your husband, can you tell us about that?
AB: In this business it’s difficult to meet men as a single straight woman. People always say to me when I’m on stage that I’m unattainable, something untouchable, and I never understood that because I was always just being me. I had three couples that were close to me meet their partners online. I realized there is something to online dating because they are ordinary people and they met perfect mates. My girlfriend kept saying, ‘you got to try it.’ But when you are a public figure you don’t want to put your personal data on the web, for all to see. Eventually I tried it and I dated someone for six months but he wasn’t marriage material. So I tried again but after a few weeks I thought ‘forget it’. And then three months later I said to myself, ‘just take a look.’ I went online and the first profile that came to me was Scott, my husband to-be. So I emailed him and he emailed back, we had a couple of emails, and we had one brief phone conversation. We met on Thanksgiving at Café Luxembourg, which is one of my favorite places, and he didn’t know that. It went really well and the next day he sent me flowers with a beautiful poem. Scott proposed to me in London the next March, and in May I moved in. He didn’t know I was a performer until much later; I just wanted him to know me for me and not that apparently untouchable persona. Scott played my album for his mother, who is an Opera buff. And from there it was destiny. •