The Straits Times (Singapore), section "Life!", 10 December 2001



by   Tan Zhzr Ee
Sarah Brightman has dropped her fandom of the opera and revamped herself as the goddess of love. Her new album [Classics] features her ethereal voice and sensual new image.
Life begins at 40 -- so every woman approaching mid-crisis will reassure herself.
Not so Sarah Brightman.
For the 1.59-m-tall British sylph of the crossover opera world simply carries on.

Yes, that saucer-eyed creature, who screamed out the role of Christine in the block-buster musical Phantom Of The Opera back in 1986, celebrated her 41st birthday in August [2001].

"There's nothing to it, really," she says, her famous breathy murmur distinct over an interview with Life! from a hotel in California, the United States.
"Such things don't happen overnight," adds the woman who is rated the 10th richest in Britain, with a £4-million (US$10.5-million) turnover in 2000.
"You expect changes all the time as part of getting older."

To the diva's credit, there are no hang-ups about time running out or last-minute facial gameplans. Even better, there is none of that "I'm-living-my-life-renewed" drill.

Instead, as if mocking her own flippant bouts of verbal modesty, the soprano gives you centrespreads of her semi-nude physique, splashed across her latest album inlay, Classics, released here last month.
"I'm very pleased with the pictures," she says.
"There was no air-brushing. I didn't even worked out! These days, it's normal for women to still look good into their 40s and 50s."

Well and truly said. Dangling her taut belly and other bare assets in little more than gold paint and a little translucent wrap, Brightman takes the Mona Lisa half-smile trick a step further by half-parting her lips and opening her bright, bright eyes.

"The opera world was shocked!" she whispers gleefully.
"But the image is very classical. It's taken from Botticelli's portrait of Venus, who's standing in a seashell with her hair covering her body.
"It's very sensual. It represents the vulnerable side of me. Although I'm not wearing any clothes, it comes across very well."



Of course, bitchy rivals will remark that clothes are not the only things Brightman had been losing.

Way back in 1990, she split with her husband, West End composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber over "personal differences", following a high-profile six-year marriage.
But the event, which also saw her sever ties with the stage world, brought her a £6-million settlement and a new career as a solo artist.
Then, in years that followed, she put on and shed a shocking amount of her baby fat -- some say she was coping with the suicide of her manic-depressive father in 1992 -- only to wither away into the waif that she is now, and gain even more fans.

With eight successful albums -- including Timeless, Eden and La Luna -- selling more than eight million copies worldwide, she has the last laugh now.
One thing she is sure of not letting go is her voice. That comes in spite of the fact that only four of the 16 tracks on her latest album, Classics, are new songs. The rest are remixes or re-issues.

But, she says: "I'm not worried about my vocal cords."
"I'm getting the depth that I couldn't have gotten earlier."
The lack of new material in her album, she says, "ties up loose ends".
"They groove with the ethereal, sensual feel of my previous albums. I wanted to lose this chapter of my singing style, so that I can also be absolutely free to try other things."

What comes next, you ask?
"Oh dear, I don't think I could possibly tell you that right this moment," she says, sounding like a schoolmarm.
"We're still in the middle of working it out and settling things. But of course all that will come out in the news later."



There are, however, other tidbits which the eldest daughter of a property developer and dancer will gamely tell you.

An unthinkable bombshell is dropped as an aside, as Brightman calmly reveals she has had -- gulp -- two miscarriages, although she does not divulge when they took place and who the father would have been.
"I've had two failed pregnancies," she says with a shocking, all-encompassing mildness.
"When you've gone through things like that, you're not so much in a hurry to get on with doing things."

You except her to go into the "been there, done that" routine and diss her early disco-girl career (I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper was her first hit with Hot Gossip in 1978).

You wait for the standard response to Life After Andrew Lloyd Webber ("It was a difficult marriage -- I was never judged by my own achievement").
But the barbs do not arrive. These days, spice in this diva's life only comes in the forum of chicken curry.
"I know it's supposed to be bad for my voice, but you don't have to be too careful all the time," she says.
"I don't go on diets. I just have to have my food."

There's not forgetting her boyfriend, too.
Paramour of the moment is Hamburg producer Frank Peterson, 39 -- one half of controversial pop-group Enigma, who got embroiled in a copyright lawsuit over an unauthorised sampling of Taiwanese music in 1999.
The singer met the pop-man in 1998 and now shares a home with him in Germany.
"We take annual holidays together," she purrs, "although it's not so much travelling around than staying put in one place. I'm doing so much on the road for my concerts already."

Life outside singing otherwise settles quietly into predictably mundane activities. She listens to records from her 8,000-CD collection, ranging from opera to Mariah Carey.
She curls up on a couch with Anita Brookner paperbacks, and laughs at ridiculously-saccharine movies like Americas's Sweethearts.
"I know it sounds really stranger, but there's just so much in that film which I could relate to," he says.
"And that in itself was so very relaxing."

Indeed. For it is the non-events of her life that rule her personality quite apart from the hysterics she had once unleashed on stage in her Phantom days.
Even critics in the straight-laced opera world have stopped savaging her semi-classical efforts at Chopin, Schubert and Puccini, and turned their attention to Italian warbler Andrea Bocelli, with whom the chanteuse herself had sung the chart-topping hit Time To Say Goodbye, in 1996.

Things happen to Brightman by simply, not happening.
"I just do everyday, boring things," she says, fumbling for an approximation of a life motto.
"I don't even mind just staying in the hotel. I just want to stay as happy as possible. I think I'm a very peaceful person."

Like the shimmery voice that sometimes does not quite dig its heels into real hunks of sound, you wonder if the fairy personality at the other end of the line really exists.

Life, indeed, does not really begin at 40.
For Sarah Brightman, it simply carries on -- it floats into the vague happy future at a mind-numbing but shockingly-regular speed of 60 minutes per hour.



"Sometimes they're grey/green, sometimes they're grey, and some people think they are blue. So, I can't tell you!"



"I felt a very strong hear [*] surrounding me. A certain warmth. I didn't cry, didn't panic, nor did I feel guilt. The feeling stayed for five days. Then it left me."



"There was no air-brushing. I didn't even work out! These days, it's normal for women to still look good into their 40s and 50s."

With thanks to Ernest Wang Tian Long for typing the text of the interview. Words between square brackets, layout stuff and links are my additions.
[*] The word "hear" is incorrect here; it probably should be "heat".

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created: 2 January 2002
last modified: 18 April 2013