Sarah Brightman‘s voice has been often described as heavenly, which more than ever seems especially appropriate, as the soprano has recently turned her sights to the skies. Her latest album, “Dreamchaser,” is inspired by her life-long fascination with space, and in two years Brightman’s childhood dream is set to become reality when she boards a rocket and travels to the International Space Station.
Brightman, who first gained international fame for the role of Christine in the London and Broadway productions of “The Phantom of the Opera,” has made a career of blending musical genres. In “Dreamchaser,” she features a range of songs, from Paul McCartney to Polish composer Henryk Gorecki.
When she’s not on stage, she continues to train extensively for her upcoming journey to space, first passing all the medical and psychological tests required to join the Russian space agency crew. She also recently set up scholarships for young women and girls to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) courses.
We caught up with her to talk about her album and space travel plans:
ART BEAT: The new album, “Dreamchaser,” seems borne from your love of space and exploration. Can you talk about the process of crafting this new work?
SARAH BRIGHTMAN: I’ve always been interested in space and the idea of exploration in that area since I was a child growing up through the ’60s. Of course, then the idea of space exploration was incredibly relevant because of the first man landing on the moon we all saw on television. That’s really followed through in my life, although I’ve worked in the area of music. Finally my dream came true in that there was a possibility that I could travel to the International Space Station. I’ve gone through the medicals and the training and now I’m officially, by the Russian Space Federation, a cosmonaut in training. This journey it’s taken me many, many years to get to this point.
I was totally inspired to put together an album of songs that are very expansive in their feel, all the wonderful emotions that we all have in the idea of what the universe is, what it may hold in the future, all the things we’re discovering through the Hubble, through all the forms that we’re getting back now. It’s very inspiring to somebody who’s creative, because the universe is created. Through the last few years, I put together this collection of pieces. The response from it has been absolutely amazing. In effect it is what one would call a concept album.
ART BEAT: It’s a beautiful album. As a classical, crossover artist you’ve always blended a lot of work with your voice, and this album is no different. Songs range from Paul McCartney to the Polish composer Henryk Gorecki.
SARAH BRIGHTMAN: Yes, as I said a little earlier, I wanted pieces of music that had a very expansive feel. For example, there’s a beautiful piece on there by a group called Sigur Ros. They come from Iceland and they’ve written this beautiful piece called “Glosoli,” which is very expansive in its feel. It starts off in a very ethereal way and ends up with this huge, huge energy in it. Subliminally it may be what the audience who listens to it may feel, which is what I wanted. And of course the beautiful Gorecki piece from “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” which really is reflecting on humankind and all the wrongs that we have done. But throughout those wrongs there’s always a ray of hope, there’s always hope that we can get better in the kindness that we do for each other and for own planet. It actually explains many things, these little bits of messages in all of these pieces that I’ve chosen. Also with the Paul McCartney piece, which is called “Venus and Mars,” there is a very huge fun aspect to the idea of space and the universe. I felt that was a lighter piece in the album that reflected our fun aspect of the universe.
ART BEAT: Speaking of fun, what are you looking forward to most as a cosmonaut in training? When you eventually get to space, what are you dreaming of? What’s a moment that you really are just eagerly anticipating?
SARAH BRIGHTMAN: Well, the fun aspect of this is that I’m going into this like a child. I’ve obviously done a fair amount of research just getting to this point. I’ve learned a huge amount by it being around me and from listening and gaining information, but I do feel like a child. I’m experiencing something really, really new every day. I don’t really have any expectation, because apparently what you go through and what you feel you can’t understand while standing here on Earth. I think the feelings are going to be completely different to what one is used to feeling here. The fun aspect is that I’m like a child again, learning. And I love it.
ART BEAT: And on the darker side, are there things you’re scared of as you prepare to take this huge journey?
SARAH BRIGHTMAN: When I started to think about going for the first medicals, I thought about this incredibly seriously because it is a very serious thing to take on. It’s an important journey and you have to be, I think, psychologically very ready for it. I’m not worried or fearful in any way whatsoever. Because the window to go isn’t until 2015, my main focus is really to stay as healthy as possible and hope that nothing happens to me in that way.
ART BEAT: Throughout your career you’ve brought classical music to large audiences that might not have experienced it otherwise. Outside of the recording studio and the stage you’ve also worked to bring science and promote the study of STEM to young women and girls. Why is that so important to you? How do you see that work in your life?
SARAH BRIGHTMAN: Well, what I’ve realized in the few years that I’ve been involved in this is that there seemed to be very few women working in the STEM area. I’ve started up a couple of scholarships for young women who could be brilliant in this area but obviously need some funds once they are in university or college to help them on their way. I’m hoping more women will work in this area because I was incredibly inspired by it as a young person and by watching what happened back then in the ’60s. When young people talk to me about the journey I may be taking, they’re incredibly excited. You see their eyes light up and it opens up a whole area in their mind. I think there are lots and lots of women that can get involved more in all of these areas and may be be the next cosmonauts or astronauts to go.
ART BEAT: We will be following your journey and we will be listening. The new album is “Dreamchaser” by Sarah Brightman, who joined us by phone from New York City. Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
SARAH BRIGHTMAN: Thank you so much. It was a lovely interview. I wish you a wonderful day.