Sarah Brightman

Angel Records, 1997




If you thought Top 40 Divas were exhasting, you gotta see the Broadway scene. Divas are divided by their concert-selling status, which composers they've worked with, and what kind of roles they undertake. And of course, voice; chest voice, head voice, every other kind of voice is compared, compared, compared.

Sarah Brightman recently made the transition from Broadway belting to traditional opera and I was delighted when I saw the album in stores while shopping for a Mariah Carey mug (honey tea never tasted so sweet). I realized they were playing her over the loudspeakers; my first impression was that it had changed towards a warmer, perhaps darker sound. And very dramatic.

Her longtime producer Frank Peterson knows opera and pop. What they tried to do with Brightman, who already has immense crossover potential, is to create an opera-based album with pop-sounding studio-produced elements. This has been attempted many times but this time, it's done the way I've always imagined it should be done. People may listen to songs like "Naturaleza Muerta" and disagree about "they way it should be done" but whether I'm prejudiced by previous listenings of Brightman's eclectic work or not, I'm convinced that she has digested enough elements to bring out the best of both worlds.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This style is put into opera-Broadway-magic effect in my personal favorite track, "Just Show Me How To Love You (Tu Cosi Fai Stasera)". The songwriters know what they're doing; the sound is distinctly modern with a touch of traditional added by the London Symphony Orchestra, original Italian lyrics, and the gloriously golden voice of José Cura (yes, he does sound like Domingo). Brightman is one of those rare sopranos who use both head and chest voice and there is ample room for her to demonstrate that. The effect is nothing short of stunning; too many arias and duets are killed by artists trying to oversing, making vehicles for their voices instead of inspired expression.

There are many crossover-style tracks such as "There For Me", "Time To Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiro)" sung with Andrea Bocelli, "Naturaleza Muerta", a remake of Queen's "Who Wants To Live Forever", and "No One Like You". That last one opens the album with a Gershwin-type aria which sounds distinctly of American theater. This is one of the many tracks that demonstrate her international appeal; the album is done in I-don't-know-how-many languages (is that Hebrew I hear?). It's true that most opera singers (including chorus) learn several languages but this also showcases the dedication Brightman has put into her art (estranged husband Andrew Lloyd Webber confesses that he divorced her because "she was addicted to her work."), considering the fact that she started out as a unilingual Broadway artist.

The traditional tracks are, if not fascinating in originality as the crossovers, still a good listen. Some songs, like "Tu quieres volver", are given a modern bite by pulling the ranges down and making the notes more accessible to mortals. But tracks such as "In Pace" and "La Wally" are perfection in their traditional formats. She really does sound like an opera singer, with that ear-filling voice be it head or chest.

What perplexes me are the last two "Encore Tracks", "O mio babbino caro" and "Alleluja". Supposed live tracks, they sound like applause edited before and after studio productions. Sarah Brightman sounds like a studio production even in concert. Perfection is a good thing, but sometimes a flaw here or there is preferred in a concert situation.

This album is one of the best works I've heard all year. I had expected something like the ambience of Fly or another Broadway work like Surrender, but this album is much more; a feat of self-accomplishment. She and the producers pushed hard for the right kind of sound; immense growth is evident everywhere on the package. She has surprised me before with Dive and Fly. This is the third time, and I'm loving every track of it.

Rating: A

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© 1997 JB and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Angel Records, and is used for informational purposes only.