Brightman Moves To Shed Diva Image

Excerpted from the magazine for

Sarah Brightman is out to shatter the public's perception of her music with her new Angel Records release, "Harem."

The famed musical theater diva is introducing the disc with a dance remix of its title track. Popular club DJ/producer Manny Lehman did the honors in transforming the gentle original track into a hearty upbeat anthem.

"Harem" is an album rich with Middle Eastern sounds. It comes at an odd time, given the current political focus on the Middle East. The war actually did play a part in the release date of the record.

"We discussed timing of the record, given what's going on in the world," says Bruce Lundvall, CEO of jazz and classical music at EMI, which distributes Angel Records. "But the idea of this record is more about the musical and cultural beauty of the region."

Brightman adds that there is "no political statement or agenda" to be found on the record. "Traveling as much as I do, I was always intrigued by the music I would hear coming from Turkey and other areas. I wanted a chance to musically explore that," she says.

"This is the most challenging musical journey I've gone on so far," she says. "I'm not sure I'd do it again. The complexity of the instrumentation, the intricacy of the vocals -- it was challenging, indeed. Each of the 14 songs presented new avenues of expression."

And when considering remixing, several songs lend themselves well, including "The Journey Home" -- which is already upbeat -- and "Mysterious Days," which captures the true essence of the record.

"Harem" maintains the Middle Eastern musical theme throughout. Even a rendition of the pop standard "What a Wonderful World" gets a Middle Eastern revision. In any arrangement, it remains as potent and relevant a song as ever-particularly given what is going on in the world today.

"I thought it would be nice to remember that it is, indeed, a wonderful world," Brightman says. "Music can take us across boundaries-social and political-and tie us all together in melody and song. That's powerful to me. And it's powerful to remember."

As for Brightman's image, there can be no doubt she is seen as a diva in most circles. And that is not always a good thing.

"I don't know how I got the reputation," Brightman says with a laugh. "Maybe it's because of my stage experience.

"It's show business, after all, and everything is a production. The album must be produced as best it can, as well as the stage shows." She adds, "But I love interacting with fans and media alike. It's my job, and I quite relish it."

Part concert and part Cirque du Soleil, Brightman's shows have reached TV viewers throughout the world, thanks to PBS. The artist has done several specials for the network. She will be taping a new show for airing in August.

Excerpted from the May 31, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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