In an interview with The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday, Berger said the video came after a conversation with a regular customer from Italy.
Berger said he’d chatted with the man previously about opera after noticing his accent and that he’d sung previously for him, albeit not in front of a camera.
The man came in and asked again for Berger to sing, he said, but he was unaware the man’s wife was filming and that the number would garner now more than 43,000 views online.
“I was genuinely shocked. I didn’t think it was being filmed,” Berger said, adding that while he has sung three or four times at the coffee shop, it isn’t ideal for opera singers to perform without proper vocal warmups.
“It’s like if you ask an architect, ‘Hey, draw me a sketch right now,’” he added.
Berger received much of his formal training in Baltimore and still performs in the area. In November, he made his debut as a soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the Concert Artists of Baltimore.
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He said that while he appreciates the attention he’s garnered, he hopes the video also demonstrates that people are interested in opera, even if the stigma is that the audience skews older.
“I think it’s incredible that 42,800 people have been exposed to what a classically trained voice sounds like because we’re not often exposed to opera in our mainstream culture,” he said. “I hope this gets people to appreciate the arts and realize the arts need to be funded."
He said that as a bisexual who struggled with a learning disability in school, “the arts were where I could express myself," and that he wants people to see more of the community that helped him feel accepted.
“The arts are a necessity and not a luxury,” he said.