English soprano, actress, songwriter, dancer and trained cosmonaut Sarah Brightman is taking a final tour of China before her planned trip into space. Originally a member of dance troupe Hot Gossip, she later became Andrew Lloyd Webber’s muse, originating the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera. She’s since retired from the stage and made a lucrative career out of her eclectic musical tastes and great vocal talent. She gave us a few minutes of her time to talk about her China experiences, why she's not keen on sport and what it's like sharing the stage with fellow singing greats like Jose Carreras and Andrea Bocelli.
You’ve performed with many operatic singers over your career – including two we interviewed very recently, Andrea Bocelli and Jose Carreras. Who was the bigger charmer?
It’s a very difficult task to compare these two outstanding singers. Bocelli’s voice is clear and has a penetrating power, between the boundaries of classical and popular. Carreras is a master of vocal music, a rare lyric tenor… his voice’s emotional capability is second to none in today’s world music. They are both very charming singers and two of today’s top talents.
Everyone is coming to China these days. Do you recall your first time setting foot in the country?
That was in 2004, for the Harem China tour. For that, the whole stage was surrounded with a white curtain like a mysterious Arabian palace. The front of the stage extended into the audience. The atmosphere there was very good and the whole tour I also felt was pretty good. I felt it was particularly memorable and I believe that many people in the audience felt so too.
Having performed several times in China now, both on stage and in the studio, what has most struck you about the country and its culture?
What impresses me most is China’s thousands of years of civilization. I love Chinese history very much and I always visit various sites here... People here are very friendly. I also like the food here; every time I come to China, the Chinese staff around me will recommend new restaurants, and every time there’s a surprise! I think this is the country’s young side... I attended a lunar New Year party this February. To me, the Chinese Spring Festival is so interesting; it’s like a party throughout the holiday season. Every day it’s just so happy!
You recently were in Beijing for the international film festival there. Were you familiar with any of the actors there?
Yes, I sang the old song ‘Scarborough Fair’ at the closing ceremony of the Beijing International Film Festival. Due to time constraints, I didn’t get a chance to meet the guests who also attended this closing ceremony or any actors who I’m familiar with. But I guess that more and more familiar stars will come to this festival as it grows.
From televisions shows to ancient wonders to humongous stadiums – what is the favorite place you’ve ever performed and why?
The Bird’s Nest. That was one of my life’s most unforgettable singing experiences.
That was actually the second time you performed at an Olympics Games – you also did so for Barcelona 1992. Do you consider yourself quite a sporty person? And if you were to enter the Olympics, what sport would you compete in?
I’m sorry, strictly speaking, I’m not a sport fans. You know, an ample sleep is quite important for singers. So… However, I take a walk every day and if the Olympics had that sport, I’d be willing to participate!
One of your dreams is to go into space. What other dreams are you still chasing? And what childhood dreams have you already fulfilled?
I used to want to be a ballet dancer in my childhood, but later I became a musical actor and a singer. To some extent, I have achieved my childhood dream of being an artist.
You first became a household name playing Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, but you’ve since retired from the stage. Will you ever return to it?
Maybe in the future I will return to the musical stage, as long as there is suitable opportunity. Anyway, the most important mission for me these two years is to tour and continue to chase my dreams!
// Sarah Brightman is performing in Shanghai on June 23. RMB280-1,680, 7.30pm. Shanghai Grand Stage, 1111 Caoxi Bei Lu, by Lingling Lu 漕溪北路1111号, 近零陵路 (6438 4952)