With the 74-year-old Barbara Cook’s popularity soaring to all-time highs, it seems contemporary concert and cabaret audiences still go nuts for a soprano brimming with classical cleanliness, crystal pitch and a repertoire that straddles Broadway’s best with the Met. Indeed, this could be the career trajectory of the generations-younger diva Anna Bergman (below), currently appearing in New York in her new show Melody, Melodie: A Celebration of Song from Berlin to Bizet at Danny’s (346 West 46th St.) through September 27.
Similar to her previous show, Souvenir (just released on CD), Bergman’s new act is being musically directed by Alex Rybeck and has a distinctly international flavor; the eclectic collection of songs includes Berlin, Coward, Weill and Sondheim. The latter is especially appropriate for the sweet-natured strawberry blonde, as Bergman’s most recent musical theatre appearance was in A Little Night Music in this past summer’s Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center.
“It was divine,” Bergman says of Night Music. “The cast, the director, Stephen Sondheim at rehearsal — the whole experience of the festival was a great, great honor.” But cabaret, she confesses, “holds a very special place in my heart. It’s my first love.”
As with many cabaret performers, one of the most exciting aspects of the medium for Bergman is that it gives her an opportunity to shape her own theatrical journey: “They love it when I go from Carole King to Puccini!” Bergman says. Also important is her close proximity to the audience. “I love singing right into people’s eyes. It’s the way into their hearts.” To further enhance her intimate contact, Bergman prefers to do it sans mic. “Because I’m classically trained, I was taught to sing without a microphone. And I apply those techniques to all the styles of music that I sing.” In fact, it’s part of why Bergman believes that icon Cook has retained her awesome pipes. “She’s classically trained. And when you’re using those techniques, using your whole body to sing like that, it’s amazing, very powerful. That’s true of the audience as well. When you sing with your entire being—like an opera singer must do—people can sense that. They experience that. Out in the audience, their whole body vibrates.”
—By David Drake