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Ahead of Salt Lake concert, ‘Phantom’ soprano Sarah Brightman on performing in ‘God’s country’

SHARE Ahead of Salt Lake concert, ‘Phantom’ soprano Sarah Brightman on performing in ‘God’s country’

Note: This story has been updated to reflect an upcoming performance.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sarah Brightman has never performed with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, but the world-famous soprano is open to the idea.

"I would love to perform with them one day," Brightman said. "I'm sure it will happen at the right time."

Brightman's warm feelings for The Tabernacle Choir was one of many topics she discussed in a telephone interview with the Deseret News while promoting her latest album, "Hymn," which was released in November 2019. Brightman, the original Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera," will perform songs from "Hymn," as well as some fan favorites at Abravanel Hall on Thursday, March 7.

Among several topics, Brightman, with a crisp British accent, discussed the ups and downs of performing in Utah, her preferred musical language and how "Phantom" changed her life.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Deseret News: You've performed in Utah in earlier years and will come here again on tour on March 7. What stands out when you think about performing in Salt Lake City?

Sarah Brightman: Oh this is a beautiful country. I love it. It really is God's country. The people are lovely. They are focused, the audience, and they're very, very appreciative, and they are gentle. This is lovely and I've always found that my music works well when I come to Salt Lake City. We've had a few problems from time to time with the altitude with dancers I've brought and other singers, but I know all about that and what to do. But it's always been a beautiful place for me to come to perform. And you have a wonderful choir there, so this is wonderful.

DN: Congratulations on your new album. What was the inspiration for "Hymn" and its unique cover design?

SB: There are a lot of themes that go on in my albums, usually to do with something I've been going through in my life. With this one, I came out of the Russian space program. I needed to grab myself a bit and get myself back in singing and doing what Sarah Brightman normally does. So I found myself in a beach house in a hot country, and asked a friend of mine to come and coach me for a few months so I could get myself back into my voice. During that time my producer Frank Peterson called and said, "Sarah, I know you've been going through a journey and you've been enlightened in some way. It's time to go back to work and do some recording. What would you like to do?" I said I'd like to work with songs which are full of light and hope and that remind me of being younger, maybe singing in my church. I said it feels like a bit of a dystopian world at the moment. People wonder what is going to happen in the future. I want to do something that is very uplifting. He said that's a great idea. It's a whole idea of humans working together. It took about two years and we came out with the album.

DN: One of the songs on the album is "Time To Say Goodbye." What is it about that song that moves people so much?

SB: It think it's a piece, regardless of whether they understand Italian or not, that sort of conveys substantive inward thoughts of horizons and distances. It's a love song but there's a poignancy about it. I did a new version of it in English because I always felt when singing the song in a grand, operatic way, that actually the message, although there's a bigger message of love and distance, was incredibly intimate. So I took it down to how it was probably originally written. I wrote new lyrics for it that are based on the original Italian lyrics. And of course when it goes up a key at the end it becomes grand, but generally the song is much more intimate in its original form.

DN: You've recorded so many songs in different languages. Do you have a favorite language or language you prefer to sing in?

SB: It will always be the Italian or Spanish languages, more the Italian for the classical. I also find the English language is great because it lends itself better to the Celtic quality that we often compose in. But the Italian, definitely for the classical.

DN: Considering your Catholic faith, how does your faith influence your music?

SB: Faith is a personal thing. Everybody thinks of it in a different way, which is good because we're all slightly different human beings. I think it's how you're brought up and what's within you, really. This album very much reflected for me a very challenging time which I came through. The best way to come through challenging times is to have positivity, to look always to the light. Never look to the dark. It's easy to look to the dark when you're in a challenging time. Just keep looking to the light, because that's really, at the end of the day, what God wants us to look towards and that's how we get through our lives in the best possible way. And you never know what's around the corner.

DN: What has your many years of experience and success taught you about the power and influence of good music?

SB: (Music) reaches people. It's like a food for people. With music, human beings instinctively feel that something is rich, it's textured, there's something behind it. You don't have to shout about it. It's just there, like the beauty of good poetry or art. Human beings just understand it. It always speaks to a bigger picture.

DN: You gained stardom by playing the original Christine in "Phantom of the Opera." How did that experience change your life?

SB: Gosh. What it did, working with that particular composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, I understood really what could be created. You know many times in life we can't quite see what we're capable of, what can be done. Sometimes you meet people and just by watching them you can see the wonderment of creation and what you can do yourself, how far you can go, how much you can challenge yourself. I think we're all capable of far greater things than we even realize as human beings.

"Phantom" was one of those pieces that was beautifully crafted and actually had all the right ingredients. As long as you bring the right ingredients together and everybody is focused on what they are doing and know what they're doing, you can create something that is absolutely beautiful.

If you go …

What: LIVE NATION presents Sarah Brightman

When: Thursday, March 7, 8 p.m.

Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple

How much: $80-$890.50

Phone: 385-468-1010

Web: artsaltlake.org