STARS IN HER EYES...

Sarah Bright­man, one of the world’s most pop­u­lar so­pra­nos, is back with her first al­bum in five years. She talks to LUCY MAPSTONE about new record Hymn and what it means to her, and why she is still hop­ing to go into space

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THREE years af­ter pulling out of her planned trip to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, Sarah Bright­man still hopes to go into space. The Bri­tish so­prano raised more than a few eye­brows in 2012 when she un­veiled her plan to make the in­ter­ga­lac­tic ex­cur­sion and she un­der­went ex­ten­sive train­ing at a top fa­cil­ity just out­side Moscow.

She was due to blast off in a Rus­sian Soyuz rocket on an or­bital tourist flight in Septem­ber 2015, and would per­form a song cho­sen by ex-hus­band An­drew Lloyd Web­ber, but she stepped down from the mis­sion sev­eral months be­fore­hand for “per­sonal fam­ily rea­sons”.

The ex­pe­ri­ence had quite an im­pact on Sarah, whose new al­bum was a re­ac­tion to ev­ery­thing she went through, and she’s not drawn a line un­der her child­hood dream to – quite lit­er­ally – get out of this world just yet.

“I didn’t have any choice but to pull out,” she re­flects.

She con­fesses she still can’t re­ally talk about why she had to stand down, but adds: “It was noth­ing to do with me.

“I talked with my fam­ily very deeply about it and my mother wasn’t very happy at all. So we just made the de­ci­sion...” she trails off, be­fore con­tin­u­ing: “It’s not that I won’t go later, but at the mo­ment I’m just let­ting things go and I’m con­cen­trat­ing on my own things.

“But I never say never with these things. There was a rea­son why I was there and why I passed all the tests in Rus­sia. It was very chal­leng­ing for me, but it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

So it’s not one that I can just put aside com­pletely. It’s part of my life.”

Out of ev­ery­thing that hap­pened came Hymn, her first record in five years and a re­turn to the more clas­si­cal, op­er­atic stylings that she is known for.

“I’d come off the space pro­gramme in Rus­sia and I needed to ground my­self,” Sarah ex­plains.

“Ev­ery­thing has been quite chal­leng­ing – not that I failed in any way – and I needed to find some­where that I could just sing.”

She re­calls find­ing a beach and work­ing with an old friend, an opera coach, “so I could get back to my­self”, be­fore talk­ing to long-time pro­ducer Frank Peter­son, who en­cour­aged her to work with choirs.

“He asked me what was on my mind at the mo­ment, and I said that I just wanted to work on things that re­ally make me happy, full of hope and light and that I want to work with lots of hu­man voices,” she says.

“We started re­search­ing into choirs and we came across loads of things un­til we came up with Hymn. There are choirs from all cor­ners of the world on there.”

She adds: “Of­ten, when you’re work­ing on opera pieces, teach­ers will sug­gest get­ting every­body singing to­gether in har­mony as a warm-up. It gets every­body go­ing and you re­alise, when you’re all singing to­gether, that there’s a nat­u­ral thread through all of us as hu­man be­ings. Choirs are in­cred­i­bly up­lift­ing.”

Of the over­all feel and theme of the al­bum, Sarah refers to her younger days.

“I wanted some­thing that re­minded me of a peace­ful child­hood. Not that there are Chris­tian songs on there, but pieces that high­light the feel­ings I felt when I was singing in church in a choir. Our job as artists is to let every­body es­cape for a while.”

The idea of shar­ing up­lift­ing mu­sic is im­por­tant to Sarah, 58, who cut her teeth in the in­dus­try in dance troupes Pan’s Peo­ple and Hot Gos­sip in the 1970s.

Her ca­reer has taken an ex­tra­or­di­nary num­ber of turns, from an early disco-singing stint with hits such as I Lost My Heart To A Star­ship Trooper, to mak­ing a name for her­self as a stage star in the orig­i­nal Lon­don pro­duc­tion of Cats and then later as Chris­tine in the first pro­duc­tion of The Phan­tom Of The Opera by her then-hus­band Lord Lloyd Web­ber.

Fol­low­ing her stage ca­reer, she scored suc­cess as a clas­si­cal cross­over artist, fur­ther pro­pel­ling her into the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket with a num­ber of al­bums, which have sold mil­lions of copies, and hit songs, in­clud­ing Time To Say Good­bye with Ital­ian tenor An­drea Bo­celli.

Among her count­less con­certs across the world, one of her most mem­o­rable ca­reer mo­ments hap­pened in 2008 when she found her­self at the big­gest gig of her life – per­form­ing at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Bei­jing Olympics to an es­ti­mated global au­di­ence of four bil­lion peo­ple.

“Of course I was ner­vous,” she laughs. “I just en­joyed ev­ery se­cond of it, and then my nerves went away com­pletely. I felt so lucky to be there and it was such a joy­ous time.”

Cur­rently, Sarah is happy about the re­lease of her new al­bum.

De­spite the five-year gap be­tween her last record Dream­chaser, in­spired by her space-go­ing ef­forts, she is in no way con­sid­er­ing slow­ing down as an artist.

“If you’re born with a tal­ent, which I was ... I mean, from the age of three I was com­mu­ni­cat­ing through singing and also I was a nat­u­ral at the pi­ano, it was ob­vi­ous that this is what I was go­ing to do,” she ex­plains, when asked about how her pas­sion con­tin­ues af­ter all these years.

“It iden­ti­fies you,” she re­flects, adding: “If you have this deep con­nec­tion with mu­sic within your body both phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally, it’s some­thing you have to keep do­ing. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t do it.”

Tak­ing a step back from per­form­ing is also not cur­rently an op­tion for Sarah be­cause she is in the mid­dle of a 125-date world tour.

“I don’t look at how many shows I’m do­ing,” she quips, keep­ing the sheer num­ber of gigs in her near fu­ture at a dis­tance.

How­ever, she is clearly more hon­oured than daunted at the prospect of an­other huge tour.

“The amaz­ing thing is that peo­ple bother to buy a ticket to come to your con­cert, make all that ef­fort, and that in it­self is a huge adren­a­line-giver,” she ad­mits.

“I feel very, very priv­i­leged that I am in this po­si­tion, so I give it my ev­ery­thing, ev­ery time.”

Look­ing for­ward to a time when she may, inevitably, have to take a step back, Sarah con­sid­ers briefly, be­fore ex­plain­ing: “Ob­vi­ously we get older and some hu­mans who are singers, they don’t nec­es­sar­ily want the con­nec­tion of singing out­wards any­more. I sup­pose if I didn’t per­form any­more, I could go into writ­ing, or com­pos­ing or con­duct­ing, later in life.” She adds: “I’m never re­ally wor­ried about get­ting older in that way.”

Hope­fully, be­fore then, Sarah will fi­nally get to re­alise her child­hood dream of launch­ing into space to sing an aria or two in front of per­haps her big­gest global au­di­ence ever.

Sarah Bright­man Sarah in 2015, the year she was due to go into space

Sarah and ex-hus­band An­drew Lloyd Web­ber pic­tured in 1991

Sarah per­form­ing in 2008

■ Sarah Bright­man’s al­bum Hymn (left) is out now.

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