Sarah Brightman is no stranger to the world stage. She first premiered in the musical Cats in 1981 at the West End in London and quickly rose to stardom as part of the original cast of The Phantom of the Opera. Since then, she has released several bestselling albums and traveled the globe on many world tours. She's even performed at the Olympics twice.
Known for her genre-blending style of classical, pop and dance, Brightman's music is universally appealing. Her latest album, Hymn, comes out Friday and will be followed by a huge world tour, spanning 125 concerts across five continents. Before the album releases, audiences across the country will be able to watch a special film version of her album, Hymn: Sarah Brightman in Concert, in theaters Thursday.
"I really wanted to do an album which was full of lots of hope and light and was quite simple in its way," Brightman says. "I didn't want anything complex something that just made you feel good."
The album comes after a period of personal and societal change, after which Brightman decided really to "focus in on the world," which she says, "felt just a little dystopian."
"I felt that people didn't really know how the world was going to be, what the future was going to be like," she says.
One evening, while contemplating these thoughts in the back of a concert hall, Brightman saw a beautiful, old painting: A figure, suffused in golden light, held his arms out to heaven.
"It's set in this concert hall, which is obviously a musical place," Brightman says of the painting. "It's a place that brings people together to listen to something that inspires them, that makes them feel better, that makes them reflect on things. I took the idea [for the album] from this picture. And I do believe that it's always when human beings come together that they make the right choices and overcome whatever has happened."
The art for her album depicts Brightman stretching her own arms out to heaven.
Hymn, which Brightman describes as "quite an eclectic group of songs," features a little bit of everything, from Bizet and Handel to German dance anthems. All of the songs are freshly orchestrated, including the title track by British rock band Barclay James Harvest. There is even an adaptation of Eric Whitacre's "Fly to Paradise" from his musical Paradise Lost.
"I've gotten to know Eric quite well," Brightman says. "I've been talking to him for years now. I've always loved his work."
When Brightman contacted Whitacre about including his piece on her new album, he even invited her to put her own spin on it.
"He said, 'You could take the song further, if you like. You can add more to it,'" she explains. "And he loved what we did with it. It turned out really well."
Audiences can see Brightman perform "Fly to Paradise" and the other twelve songs from Hymn, accompanied by her band, the Munich orchestra, a 50-voice choir and the Ludwig Ensemble of dancers in theaters on Thursday.
"The feel of [the film] will be very much the same as when I go on tour," Brightman says. "The costumes, the theme and everything will be the same."
For more information on Brightman's album and upcoming tour, visit her website.