15 May 2017

Anna Maria Alberghetti - singer and actress

Child prodigy who rejected Hollywood to become Broadway star

Anna Maria Alberghetti's good looks made her attractive to movie studios
Anna Maria Alberghetti's good looks made
her attractive to movie studios
The actress and operatic singer Anna Maria Alberghetti was born on this day in 1936 in the Adriatic resort of Pesaro.

She moved with her family to the United States in her teens and became a Broadway star, winning a Tony Award in 1962 as best actress in a musical for her performance in Bob Merrill’s Carnival, directed by Gower Champion.

Alberghetti was a child prodigy with music in her blood. Her father was an accomplished musician, an opera singer and concert master of the Rome Opera Company, who also played the cello. Her mother was a pianist.

They influenced the direction in which her talent developed and by the age of six she was singing with symphony orchestras with her father as her vocal instructor.

After success touring Europe, Anna Maria was invited to perform in the United States and made her debut at Carnegie Hall in New York at the age of 14. Given the state of Italy after the Second World War, the idea of settling permanently in America became too attractive for the family to resist.

Alberghetti in an early publicity shot for the MGM studios
Alberghetti in an early publicity shot
for the MGM studios
At that time, Anna Maria’s focus was on a career as an opera singer but the American cinema industry was obsessed with European actresses and saw in her someone with the same qualities as her contemporary Anna MariaPierangeli, the beautiful actress from Sardinia who became better known as Pier Angeli.

Paramount was the studio that showed the most interest, foreseeing a bright future for her on screen.  She made her debut in the hypnotic Gian Carlo Menotti's chamber opera The Medium in 1951. It was an art-house movie that was well appreciated by the devotees of that genre but Paramount had bigger plans for their new discovery.

However, her talent was used strangely used. After an extended operatic solo in the Bing Crosby comedy Here Comes the Groom (1951), she played a Polish émigré befriended by a singer (played by Rosemary Clooney) who discovers the girl has musical talent of her own in The Stars Are Singing (1953).

But thereafter, her vocals were required less and less as Paramount pushed her towards mainstream parts, casting her in adventure stories and comedies. It was not a path she wanted to follow and after being cast in the Jerry Lewis farce Cinderfella (1960), in which all the songs were sung by Lewis and none by her, she became disillusioned and quit cinema to seek expression on the Broadway stage.

It was on Broadway that she found stardom, landing the part of Lili in the musical Carnival for which she received outstanding reviews. Her delightful and moving performance was rewarded with the Tony Award.

Alberghetti in the Broadway hit Carnival which established her stardom
Alberghetti in the Broadway hit Carnival
which established her stardom
More success followed in the title role in Fanny (1963), Maria in West Side Story (1964), Marsinah in Kismet (1967) and Luisa in The Fantasticks (1968), to name just a few. 

Via the Ed Sullivan TV show, she became a familiar face – and voice - to millions of American households and appearances in other TV shows followed, as well as a recording career.

She often figured in the gossip pages of newspapers and magazines after romantic associations with a number of famous figures in the entertainment world, including the singer Vic Damone, the actors Bob Wagner  and Dick Contino and Count Alberto Mochiand, a 30-year-old Italian doctor who bought her a pearl and diamond engagement ring.

She was briefly engaged to the producer-composer Buddy Bregman but cancelled the wedding plans and began dating Claudio Guzman, the Chile-born television director, whom she married in September 1964. They had two children, Alexander, Pilar, but divorced in 1972.  

Travel tip:

Pesaro, in the Marche region on Italy's Adriatic coast, is a traditional seaside resort blessed with sandy beaches, particularly popular with Italians. Situated to the north of the region, it is around 40km (25 miles) south of the better known resort of Rimini and represents an interesting alternative, although with a population of 95,000 it is by no means a quiet backwater. A feature, too, is its many cycle paths, which earned Pesaro the nickname City of Bicycles.

Rossini's birthplace is now a museum
Rossini's birthplace is now a museum
Travel tip:

The older part of Pesaro, inland from the grid of streets parallel with the shoreline where most of the hotels and holiday apartments are situated, has no shortage of history.  Look out for the Ducal Palace and Rocca Costanza, the palace and castle built by the Sforza family in the 15th century and the 16th century Villa Imperiale, built in the 16th century for Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere and his wife.  The Piazza del Popolo is a pleasant main square where there is a regular market. The town’s most famous son, the opera composer Gioachino Rossini, is commemorated in many ways, in particular with the a museum at his birthplace in what is now Via Rossini and the Conservatorio Statale di Musica in Piazza Oliveri.

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