In the journey from the past to the present, Sarah Brightman has searched for her own place in the musical world, a home of own making, "where everything is in tune," she says, "the voice, the type of music, who I am and who people think I am. I’ve been trying to find my own niche, a style very much my own. At last I’ve found it."
"Being varied is something I do instinctively and naturally," she says, noting that today’s so-called adult contemporary audience grew up in the same era as she did. "I was brought up in the ‘60s, when there was a lot of experimenting, in all naivete, with mixing classical and pop. Our generation was open to that. There was a sense of freedom in music."
Born and raised near London, the eldest of six children of young parents, she listened to their pop and rock, but also danced to classical music as an aspiring ballerina first on stage at the age of three. Trained in acting and singing as well as dance, she appeared in "I And Albert" at the Picadilly Theatre when she was 13. Two years later, she became the youngest dancer to ever join Pan’s People, TV’s "Top of the Pops" dance troupe. By 16, she was a member of pop act/dance group Hot Gossip. In 1978, at age 18 she had her first Top 10 U.K. hit with "I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper," which made Hot Gossip a national sensation.
Enter Andrew Lloyd Webber. The composer spotted her in his Cats, in whose chorus she sang since the original production’s opening in 1981. Brightman performed in musicals by other composers, Masquerade and Nightingale, before marrying Lloyd Webber in 1984. That year, she starred in his song cycle Song and Dance. In 1985 she appeared in his Requiem in London and New York, earning a Grammy nomination as Best New Classical Artist and a Top 10 hit, "Pie Jesu," quite different from her first one. She also made her operatic debut as Valencienne in the Sadler’s Wells Opera’s The Merry Widow. (She’s since performed in operas at New York’s Metropolitan, for the American Ballet Theatre, in Moscow and in Berlin.)
In 1986, Lloyd Webber created for her the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera. Performing in London and then on Broadway (1988), Brightman was elevated to a bona fide superstar, and claimed three more Top 10 hits with "All I Ask Of Your," "Wish You Were Somehow Here Again" and the title song.
Though divorced in 1990, Lloyd Webber had continued to call on her singing, and they remain friends to this day. Brightman took over the female lead of Rose on Broadway and in London for his Aspects of Love in 1991 and starred in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber In Concert touring the U.K., U.S. and Japan. "But I needed to go somewhere people didn’t know who I was and start afresh. I felt I needed to be a success with no past. I needed to make a change to earn a name for myself as Sarah Brightman. I needed assurance that I could stand on my own two feet."
While her duet with Jose Carreras, "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)," recorded for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, went platinum and to the top of the U.K. charts, she was on the verge of major changes in her life and career. That year, she moved to Hamburg, Germany, home to her producer Frank Peterson, and the following year released Dive, an electronic dance album.
It was a departure, to say the least, from her previous albums: the U.K. chart-topping Requiem and London cast recording of Phantom of the Opera, as well as London cast recordings of Cats, Song And Dance and Aspects of Love (also Broadway), and a studio album of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel (1987). Her previous headlining albums included a collection of Benjamin Britten folk songs (Early One Morning, 1988), the retro-pop As I Came of Age (1990), and Sarah Brightman Sings the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (1992).
She also began to perform in straight plays, starring in productions of Trelawney of the Wells, Noel Coward’s Relative Values, Dangerous Obsessions and The Innocents. After another Lloyd Webber excursion, Surrender, The Unexpected Songs (1995), she recorded Fly with Tom Jones and Bocelli. Released in 1996 in Germany, the album scored a Top 10 there with "Question Of Honor."
All the while, Brightman was seriously engaged in classical vocal training, studying at the Royal College of Music, then with teachers from Juilliard and her current singing guru in Italy. Finally, her voice, the music and the style she wanted to convey were all ready for each other. Time To Say Goodbye, recorded with The London Symphony Orchestra, mixed songs by the Gipsy Kings, Mozart, Puccini, Carl Orff, Queen rocker Brian May, film composer Jerry Goldsmith and others. The title song duet was also featured on Romanza, Bocelli’s breakthrough album and they sang together on his 1997 PBS special which introduced him to America. After PBS aired "Sarah Brightman In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall" for the first time in March 1998, sales of Time To Say Goodbye began to explode. Later in the year, A Christmas in Vienna, with Placido Domingo and others, was released.
Today Brightman is at home in London, Hamburg, outside Milan, and on Spain’s west coast, where four generations of her family live under one roof. Today, she’s also built a home of her own making in the musical world.
"I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment," she says. "Now the next step is to write an entire album myself, and that’s what I’m looking forward to most."