Fort Lauderdale Magazine: Sarah, it is an honor conducting this interview with the world’s best-selling soprano. You began your career dancing; how did your path take a new direction?
Sarah Brightman: Since I was really small, I sang and played piano. And I didn’t have a big voice but it was incredibly cheerful and very musical. Whenever I sang at an assembly at school, I just sort of knew what to do and the other kids didn’t really understand. My mother thought, What can I do with a small child with a great voice? There’s not a lot you can do at that point because your voice is growing and the child is growing so my mother, being a dancer, she said, “Okay, you need to get into the arts so let’s start with ballet and the dancing.” And I actually trained to be a classical ballerina but the voice kept speaking and so I ended up switching. That was really why, in the end, I went into what was probably my real vocation.
FLMag: When did you make your musical debut? And which one was it?
SB: I was 11 and there was a great director by the name of John Schlesinger who wanted to do a drama musical about Queen Victoria and her family. That was where it started, in Piccadilly Theatre in London. I remember as a child, in about 1970, I was wandering around London, because children were allowed to wander around a little bit back then not chaperoned. It was a very exciting time for me and after that, I didn’t want to go back to school. I just wanted to get back up onto the stage so that’s when I knew my career, really from that day onwards.
FLMag: And then you performed in Cats.
SB: Yes. But before that, I had a short, successful reporting career and had a couple of hits in England. Then, an audition came up for Cats and I felt like I was trained and knew how to do it. So I auditioned several times and got the part. That was a whole new world that opened up for me in a different way from the reporting career.
FLMag: You originated the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera. And by the way, you are the very best Christine in my opinion.
SB: That’s very lovely of you. It’s always great to see other girls taking on that certain role and bringing different things to it. Of course it’s the same actions and the same part that I put together myself but they bring their own individual feel to it, which I find fascinating.
FLMag: Did Andrew Lloyd Webber write that role specifically for you?
SB: Well, the part in the story was already written by Gaston Leroux from a small novel, but yes, I was his muse for how he was going to write for that particular part. If we hadn’t been together, the whole thing would have never happened. It was all there for a reason [laughs].
FLMag: Yes, it all happens for a reason. So how long after your stage career did you decide to embark on a solo career? And how different was that feeling for you?
SB: I think when I got divorced, it was tricky for me to be in my own country. I ended up in Continental Europe thinking about a new career for myself because with all the tabloids in Britain, it wasn’t going to work for me anymore. Of course, I was wrong. I got together with a young producer and we just started working. A few years later, I started to have these big recording hits and big albums and went all around the world doing all these concerts in arenas and still do [chuckles] so it just proves you can survive and start all over again. If you work hard, are talented and imaginative, then you can rise up.
FLMag: Talent is a big part of it. You won a string of accolades and to list all of them would take up this entire interview. I don’t want to leave anything out but I certainly can’t name them all. But I can name a few: You received over 200 golden platinum records in 40 countries, you were named by Billboard Magazine as the fifth Most Influential and Best Selling Classical Artist of the 2000 decade, sold 6.5 million albums in the country — that alone is amazing! Eighty-six Grammy nominations for Best Classical Artist, 2001 New Age Voice Award for the Best Vocal and I’m going to end with 2020, the honor of having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
SB: Of all the things that have happened for me, it’s actually the Hollywood Star that I find the most amazing. I didn’t really take it in until I was in the middle of making my speech there. I suddenly thought, I feel so honored to get this and it’s a really big thing. I was from a very simple small town outside of London and it just seemed like a huge stretch from there. My mother was there and when I mentioned her I could see there were tears coming down. She doesn’t usually show feelings, she’s very English. It was an amazing thing for me; I felt very honored that America had recognized me.
FLMag: As you should. Artists who have had longer careers did not earn that star. I have to get into your duet with Andrea Bocelli, “Time to Say Goodbye,” which became an international hit — selling over 12 million copies worldwide. How did you meet him? And would you consider that song your signature song with him?
SB: It was written in the stars. I was sitting in my producer’s side room. A lovely lady we knew from one of the local record companies, in Germany, came to have a coffee with us. She said, “There’s quite an interesting blind tenor. A lot of the restaurants are playing his songs. You might want to get one of his albums.” It was after that day, I bought his album. The next morning, I played this album and then a song came up and I thought, Oh, that is a huge hit. Why is this not out there? I got ahold of my producer to discuss. Then we got ahold of Andrea and my producer sent him a demo of me singing it and said it would be great if we made this a duet. We had the right TV show in Germany to promote it. Apparently when we played it, he was in his car and he had a big smile on his face. Then he came to Hamburg and we literally recorded in two minutes.
FLMag: With those two combined voices, it had to sound amazing.
SB: It was just meant to be. It was a little bit like when I did Phantom, being rolled in a way that got faster and faster. We went on the TV show in Germany and everyone bought the album and then it got to America. It was a lovely thing to have happened.
FLMag: Your ability to integrate opera and popular style is another one of your greatest accomplishments. How difficult was it to blend the styles and cross over in your music?
SB: It wasn’t calculated. I think it was because I’ve worked in so many genres of music and I’m very eclectic in my music taste anyway. It happened very naturally.
FLMag: But it is a real talent. Are there any other new upcoming projects that you are very excited about?
SB: Actually, I’m a little bit scared [laughs] but I’m going to Australia next year.
FLMag: I don’t think anything scares you, you’ve done it all [laughs].
SB: I’m going there to play the part of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. I’ve turned many roles down because I thought they weren’t right but with this role, I knew it was completely right. It’s about a star who lost everything overnight and it led her to a murder. Psychologically, I thought it was a brilliant and difficult role to play. I just thought, This is perfect. Also my ex-husband, Andrew Lloyd Webber, told me that most of the songs and the music that he wrote for that part were written for my voice because we were together when he was writing it. So, I thought I would like to do this.
WHAT: Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony
WHEN: Dec. 9 – 8pm
WHERE: Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino