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She Keeps Her Music, Life In Tune

May 01, 1985|JACK HAWN

It's true. The hills are alive with "The Sound of Music."

High in the Hills of Beverly, about an octave above a winding canyon road, Anna Maria Alberghetti once again has been getting ready to star in the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic.

But now there's also time to put a lasagna in the oven, help the kids with their homework and tend to such other equally important functions.

Radiantly content in her lovely English Tudor home, the veteran singer relaxed and talked about her primary role--that of devoted mother and soon-to-be wife--and her supporting role, her career.

Finally, she says at a youthful 48, her life is in proper perspective.

At 5 feet, 4 3/4 inches, she wears a size 6 and weighs less than 110 pounds, despite a reputation as a gourmet cook, a passion for pasta and virtually no daily exercise routine. She does, however, limit her eating to "small portions."

But her world hasn't always spun so smoothly.

"The last five years," she says, "were the only truly happy ones of my life."

A portion of that happiness is derived from her work--such as preparing for the Long Beach Civic Light Opera production of "The Sound of Music," which opens Saturday at the Terrace Theater in the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

Although her career again is flourishing after a period of premature retirement, no longer is it all-consuming. "Now," she says, "I have a different set of priorities."

A former workaholic who "learned to sing around the same time I learned to talk," the Italian-born entertainer was tutored by her late father, a cellist and a baritone who sang with a number of famous Italian opera companies.

"My father wanted perfection," she recalls, and young Anna--a professional at age 6 and the major breadwinner in the family at 13--strived to "fulfill his dream."

An impressive array of photographs and a cherished award on a piano in a corner of her living room provide evidence of her success over the years. Undoubtedly, her father would have been proud; he died when she was 20.

Prominent among the photos are two taken at the White House, showing Alberghetti with the Nixons, whom she entertained there during that Administration, and with the Reagans, who invited her to a small luncheon last October.

Clearly more meaningful to her, though, is the Tony Award, presented in 1961 for her widely acclaimed success in the Broadway production of "Carnival."

"It was the epitome of what I wanted to achieve," she says.

During "Carnival's" 2 1/2-year run, Alberghetti estimates that she gave more than 1,000 performances. But, curiously, she rates "West Side Story" her "very favorite."

Nonetheless, it was "Carousel" that prompted Life magazine to feature her in its May 5 issue that year--seven years after the magazine helped make her famous at 18 with a story involving her talented show-business family. Both framed covers bear full-page photos of her and hang on a wall behind the piano.

"I would not do another Broadway show today," she says emphatically. "I do guest soloists, pop series, concerts, recitals, lectures. . . . That's something new for me--talking and singing, half an hour of each.

"I love to work, but now I can control the amount of time I spend doing it. Ten to 11 days is the most I'm ever gone in one stretch."

As a mother of two teen-agers, Alberghetti believes it's important to be with them as much as possible.

Married to producer-director Claudio Guzman in 1964, she had two daughters by him, Alexandra (now 18 and a freshman at UCLA) and Pilar, now 15.

"Both are just normal kids," Alberghetti says. "I want them to have the childhood I didn't have. Both have pretty voices, but they have no aspirations to be in show business. They're only going to be kids once.

"I felt cheated out of my childhood, my teen-age years. My emotional growth was stunted. . . . "

And later other problems surfaced.

"After the kids were born," she recalls, "I saw signs of our marriage being in trouble. I decided to stop working for a while, to reevaluate my life. It was the best thing I ever did."

Divorced in 1974, Alberghetti underwent five years of Freudian therapy, "and one of the first things I discovered was that I had very low self-esteem."

Meanwhile, she formed a relationship with a Century City obstetrician/gynecologist, Alfred Pasternak, whom she had met at a charity tennis tournament.

Pasternak also proved good therapy and now, 12 years later, "we're finally going to make it legal," Alberghetti says, "probably this year."

During her "retirement," a long-running contract with Good Seasons salad dressing helped keep her in the public's eye, and more recently she has become associated with a milk-chocolate product made in Italy, Mon Cheri.

About seven or eight years ago, Alberghetti launched her comeback with singing dates at Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Reno, then appeared in a musical in Milwaukee--"The Sound of Music."

"And that," she says happily, "was sort of a beginning. . . . "

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