A diva delivers on her promise to come back - Taipei Times
Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 17 News List

A diva delivers on her promise to come back

SARS prevented Sarah Brightman from visiting Taiwan last year, but she's now here to entertain us

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Phantom of the opera

Sarah Brightman said she'd return and now she's back. Taiwan's favorite pop diva was kept away last year during the height of the SARS scare, but is now in town to promote her latest album, Harem. The classical crossover queen will hold court tonight and tomorrow night at the National Linko Gymnasium in Taipei County.

"I think Taiwan is the place that first started to appreciate my work. I'm very, very happy to finally bring my show Harem here," she said at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Of course, no one thought for a moment that she wouldn't return. Given that Brightman's records have gone platinum 10 times over in Taiwan -- more than any other country on the planet -- she wasn't going to stay away for long. Her Web site also lists her 1998 "Taiwan Grammy" for most records sold as one of her proudest achievements in a storybook career.

Brightman started off as a dancer, landing a spot with Pan's People, the resident dance troupe of the BBC's hit parade Top of the Pops. She was 16 and her new job kept her out of school, but she never looked back. Soon she'd dance into another troupe, Hot Gossip, which appeared weekly on Thames Television's Kenny Everett Show. The group quickly became popular for the sex appeal of its risque routines and gained both a devoted fan base and the ire of morality watch groups.

For Brightman, who thought her real talent was her voice, Hot Gossip was a stepping stone. She'd been recording demo tracks in her spare time and one of these caught the attention of Hansa Ariola, a producer responsible for disco queens like Donna Summer. The song was I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper and Brightman had the perfect voice for the part. It helped that she looked good in Mylar, too. The song was released in 1978 and sold half a million copies, reaching No. 6 on the British Hit Parade. At 18, Brightman was a pop star.

Performance Notes

Sarah Brightman will perform tonight and tomorrow night at 7:45pm at the National Linko Gymnasium, 250 Wunhua 1st Road, Gueishan Township, Taoyuan County (桃園縣龜山鄉文化一路250).

Tickets cost from NT$1,200 to NT$8,000 and are available at the door or through ERA Ticketing by calling (02) 2391 1295 or (02) 2341 9898.

As pop stars sometimes do, she married the manager of a rock band, Andrew Graham Stewart, the first of two Andrews she'd wed. She'd meet the next one a short time later during an audition for a quirky new musical called Cats.

Two lines into her audition, Brightman was interrupted and told she was to meet in person with the show's producer, Andrew Lloyd Webber. She got a part -- a small one at least -- and later got the producer. She and Lloyd Webber would marry in 1983 and the event would become tabloid fodder throughout the UK.

Everyone knows what happened from there. The world's most successful musical theater impresario had his muse and the muse had roles written for her and her name spelled with big letters on theater marquises. The only surprise came when the world learned that the pop diva could sing an E

natural above high C, and sing it well.

Accompanied by a precocious choir boy, Brightman belted out Pie Jesu from Lloyd Webber's Requiem, won the hearts of opera fans and likely created a few converts to Christianity. The single sold 25,000 copies the day it was released and her performance on PBS and the BBC eclipsed that of fellow singer Placido Domingo. The next year, she would earn her first Grammy nomination for "best new classical artist."

Lloyd Webber wanted to write something that could showcase his wife's uncannily broad vocal range and did so with the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera. The show had as much marketing muscle as musical genius and had spawned three hit singles before it even opened on the West End.

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