Whatever Happened To Sarah Brightman?

Whether or not you're familiar with the name Sarah Brightman, you have almost certainly heard her voice. The singer is one of the most successful performers of all time and originated the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Even if you're a fan of the show, if you don't follow Broadway or the classical music scene very closely, Brightman may have fallen off of your radar in recent years. The actress left Phantom in 1988, just a few months after its Broadway premiere. Shockingly, the role that made her famous didn't even garner her a Tony nomination, but Brightman's fame still proved to be unstoppable.

The star has actually been on the stage since the age of 13. That's quite the long career (Brightman was born in 1960) so we don't blame you if you thought that the singer had long since retired to enjoy her considerable fortune, but she has actually been up to quite a lot over the last few years. Keep reading to catch up with Sarah Brightman.

The world's best-selling soprano

Brightman's career has been successful, and we mean really successful. She's the world's best-selling soprano, has sold more than 30 million records, and is still performing to packed crowds in her fifties. The British singer outpaces other British performers in the U.S. including icons like Elton John and The Rolling Stones. She's made bestseller charts in dozens of countries, charting on every continent (with the exception of the sparsely populated Antarctica), racking up nearly 200 Gold and Platinum Sales awards.

She has an estimated net worth of $60 million, a fortune amassed through hard work and astonishing talent. While she received a multi-million dollar settlement after divorcing former husband (and The Phantom of the Opera composer) Andrew Lloyd Webber in the early 90s, her later success meant that she didn't need it. The star even offered to return the fortune to her ex, although he told her to keep it saying that she had earned it.

She doesn't approve of the classical crossover fad

Brightman is credited with pioneering the classical crossover genre which brought opera singers into the mainstream. Thanks to Brightman, classical singers such as Josh Groban and Jackie Evancho have become bestselling artists who sing in multiple genres and are beloved even by those who aren't big fans of opera. In spite of her reputation as one of the first classical crossover stars, Brightman isn't a big fan of the term or the trend. "Just because [Luciano] Pavarotti, me and [Andrea] Bocelli were the first ones to walk through that classical crossover door, you can't blame us for everything that followed," she told Huffpost in 2012.

Instead, Brightman considers herself to be a multi-genre artist. "I have had a long career in music and very organically working in the different styles that I have, a sort of fusion happened later on in my life, in music, which created I suppose what people sort of classify as a sort of a singer classical crossover..." she told Smart Talks in 2017. "I would have preferred to be called a hybrid rather than a classical crossover artist."

She underwent several rounds of IVF

The singer has faced enormous success throughout her decades-long career, but she has also experienced more than her fair share of heartbreak. Brightman always wanted to be a mother, but due to infertility, it just wasn't in the cards for her. While with her former partner, record producer Frank Peterson, Brightman suffered two miscarriages and went through four failed rounds of IVF. "It was an experience going through it all, but — talking about women in general, I think it's really important to try as hard as you can [for children]," she told The Telegraph in 2013. "I was upset, but then I went through this huge thing of relief of thinking: 'That's it.' There was no guilt there, there was nothing, so I'm fine about it now."

While Brightman has considered adopting children, she feels she's no longer "at that age," and said "I wouldn't feel right, that's for other parents to do who have more time to focus on something like that."

Could she be the next big movie star?

The performer certainly proved her acting chops on stage, but her film presence has been fairly minimal. She has a handful of film credits, though, so it's possible we might be seeing more of her on the big screen in the future. Her credits include a role in Repo! The Genetic Opera in 2008, but her biggest role to date has been in 2010's 1st Night. In the romantic comedy, Brightman plays a conductor at an opera.

The musical part was perfect for Brightman, but she didn't even set out to win the role. "A screenwriter mate of mine thought I'd be perfect for the part and knew the producer," she told HuffPost. "We went round to the producer's flat, drunk a bit of champagne and in hindsight I'd been auditioned without knowing." Brightman hasn't starred in any films since then, but her fans are still holding out hope. 

Bringing peace through music

Anyone who has heard Brightman sing knows she has the voice of an angel. While it's impossible to definitively measure just how influential a person is, there's no denying that Brightman has used her star power for good. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) believes in her sweet singing voice so much that, in 2012, she was named an Artist for Peace, an honor bestowed upon other icons such as singer Celine Dion and musician Gilberto Gil.

When awarding her with the title, UNESCO discussed Brightman's many contributions to the world, citing her "commitment to humanitarian and charitable causes, her contribution, throughout her artistic career, to the promotion of cultural dialogue and the exchanges among cultures, and her dedication to the ideals and aims of the Organization." According to her website, Brightman hopes to mobilize change, encouraging her fans to achieve their goals and strive "for our shared goal of a sustainable future."

Encouraging girls in STEM

Her chosen career may be in the arts, but Brightman wants to empower girls to enter any field that they want. She is a staunch advocate of girls in STEM fields and, in 2012, paired up with spaceline Virgin Galactic and not-for-profit Virgin Unite to launch the Galactic Unite STEM Scholarship program. The global initiative, according to the press release, is "designed to inspire and support students as they seek answers to global challenges through science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM) and business entrepreneurship."

Through the Bytheway and Brightman STEM Scholarship Program, young women are encouraged to enter STEM fields which have traditionally been dominated by men. The scholarship was designed to help young women chase their dreams, even in the face of challenges. It's fitting that Brightman, a woman who has always doggedly pursued her own dreams, would want to back such a worthwhile cause.

Her album Dreamchaser got a bit experimental

Many people think of Brightman primarily as a classical singer, but her 2013 album Dreamchaser proved that she truly is a master of all genres. The album pushed boundaries and explored the singer's love of space travel. Brightman called it her most experimental album, where she played with "crazy vocals."

While quite different from her earlier work, Brightman also said that it was her most personal project. "It was inspired by some things I've always wanted to do, like go to space, so recording the album was so inspirational," she told Pop Matters. "I had to create a soundscape that came purely from being inspired by space and all those things I've known since I was really young. ...It was interesting to create a sort of ethereal energy, and it was a journey." She continued, "I wanted to convey the idea of the universe. I wanted to convey the ideas and visions you would get from being a human up in space, and you were looking down to the earth below."

Writing her own music

Dreamchaser didn't just push boundaries, but also helped the singer explore another one of her talents: composition. While she told Pop Matters"I am not a composer of music, I sing pieces which have been written for me which gives me bigger freedom to search for pieces I want to record," she has a composer credit on the track "B 612," and she loved that experience. She said, "We basically started with the backing track and I experimented vocally, putting lines down. I love the idea of music and this is where most of the songs came from."

The song refers to Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic novella The Little Prince; B-612 is the name of the asteroid on which the protagonist lives. "There is also something universal and very epic about the B-612... and I found how, in a way, the writer felt he had to go on a journey to B-612 and how he found love this way," said Brightman.

Reaching for the stars

Dreamchaser explored the star's love for space and pointed to a larger dream: to travel through the universe. In 2012, she announced that she would be fulfilling her dream and would be travelling to the International Space Station in 2015. Brightman told Pop Matters that she has been fascinated by the stars since childhood and felt protected by them. "When you gaze at stars and think about planets, the places it takes your imagination are amazing!" she said. "You look up the sky and you know the stars have always been here, they were referenced in biblical times and have always been present. They are somewhere up there in the future and they guide you, they make you feel safe."

Unfortunately, Brightman's space trip has been postponed — for now, at least. She began training for the trip in January 2015 before announcing on her Facebook page (via Time) that May that she had to delay the trip for personal family reasons. So far, there has been no word about when, or if, she will make the long-awaited journey.

She's a knight... and a doctor (sort of)

The British native is loved all over the world, and her star status has garnered her some pretty impressive accolades. In 2016, Brightman was given the status of 'Cavaliere' in the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic). This is the highest ranking honor in Italy and is only bestowed upon those who show extraordinary merit in certain fields, something that Brightman has certainly accomplished through her singing career as well as her philanthropic efforts.

Brightman was also recognized in her home country in 2018, when the University of Hertfordshire, located in her hometown of Hertfordshire, awarded her with an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her prolific career. According to the school's website, Brightman said, "It is with extreme gratitude that I accept this Honorary Doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire in the town where I grew up that is very dear to me."

She's still friends with her ex, Andrew Lloyd Webber

Things might not have worked out with Brightman's famous ex, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who created the part of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera specifically with her voice in mind, but the two still maintain a friendly relationship. When asked about her former husband, Brightman responded with grace.  "My ex-husband's a sweet man and we have a sweet relationship," she told The Telegraph in 2013. "I saw him just before the 25th anniversary of Phantom in New York. He wasn't well – he's had some lower-back issues, which so many of us have – but it was really lovely, we spent some time talking about songs he's written and songs he wants to do."

Brightman added that she is proud of Webber's recent accomplishments and thinks he still has a lot more impressive work ahead of him. "In his future he'll go on creating, getting better and better, whereas often composers get to a point where things don't improve," she said.

She started her own production company

Incomparable performance skills are far from the only thing that Brightman has to offer. The singing sensation has started her own production company, although she has been pretty quiet about developing projects. According to the official bio on her website, the first film from her company, Instinct Films, is in pre-production. In 2012, she told HuffPost that the first release from the company is slated to be a "dark, emotional drama."

That was several years ago, and it's unclear whether or not the production has stalled, but film making is something that Brightman is passionate about so we hope that things work out for the production company. "I love the intimacy of making movies," she said. "The focus is deeper and much more intense than musical theatre. I've always been involved with all aspects of my careers. Being behind the camera seems as natural as in front."

Her career isn't slowing down

Her career might span nearly half a century, but that doesn't mean Brightman is slowing down any time soon. In 2018, she released her latest album, Hymn. Brightman embarked on a world tour to promote the new album. She also performed the music from the album in a concert that aired on PBS. The album was her first new release in five years, following 2013's Dreamland. Some might call it a comeback, but Brightman's half-decade hiatus from recording was more of a well-deserved break than anything. The singer spoke to Digital Journal prior to the album's release, explaining that she had "needed some time for myself."

The album is, not surprisingly, a whirlwind of genres. "I called it Hymn not only because one of the songs on the album is called 'Hymn,' but when I think of the word, it reminds me of hope, light and all things positive," said Brightman. "That was my journey into this album."