Life is "completely crazy at the moment" for Sarah Brightman -- but, she contends, in a good way.
The British-born singer, who's the best-selling soprano of all time, is in the midst of a tour promoting her latest album, the holiday-themed "A Winter Symphony," which came out earlier this month. It's her second release of the year, following January's "Symphony," which featured duets with Andrea Bocelli and Kiss' Paul Stanley.
Brightman is also the subject of a new PBS special, "Symphony in Vienna," performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 World Olympics in Bejing, and she made her action debut in the science fiction feature "Repo! The Genetic Opera").
"Everything's a bit of a slur," says Brightman, 48. "I was sitting her today and I realized that I've been sitting at my computer since God knows what time this morning, just going through things. I've completely forgotten how many hours have gone by!
"But, you know, I love my work, so it's not like I'm doing something I don't want to do."
That love has paid off in the years since Brightman won a role in ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" in 1981 and five years later established the role of Christine Daae in "The Phantom of the Opera." She's sold more than 26 million albums worldwide and is the only artist ever to top Billboard's Dance and Classical charts simultaneously -- and is widely credited for creating a market for "classical crossover" acts such as Bocelli, Josh Groban and Il Divo.
She's even in the Guinness Book of World Records, where here "Time to Say Goodbye," her hit 1996 duet with Bocelli, is the best-selling single in German recording history.
Some of this year's projects, meanwhile, have been on Brightman's wish list for awhile, in fact.
Prior to making "A Winter Symphony" -- which debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 and Top Holiday Albums charts and at No. 3 on the Top Classical Crossover Albums poll -- Brightman says she's been "just desperate to do, I suppose, a Christmas album or an album about that time of year." Most importantly, she explains, she wanted to do something more than just another collection of tried-and-true carols, though it does include "Silent Night," "Child in a Manger," "Amazing Grace" and "Ave Maria" -- the latter as a duet with Fernando Lima -- along with more contemporary choices such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)," Neil Diamond's "I've Been This Way Before," ABBA's "Arrival," Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "I Believe in Father Christmas" and the early '70s rock band Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday."
"There were so many (songs) that one can choose from," Brightman acknowledges. "I was after a feeling. I wanted to do songs that reminded me of why I like Christmas, and I think that obviously apart from the spiritual side of it...there's also great humor there. There's a lot of joy. There's some poignancy.
"So all of the songs I chose were really to sort of reflect some of these feelings that I have about Christmas, and that's the best you can do, really, is give out what you enjoy."
The "Repo!" film, meanwhile, gives Brightman a chance to step out a bit on the big screen, where previously she's only provided a voice in the animated children's film "Granpa" and made a cameo as herself in the German movie "Zeit Der Erkenntnis." Darren Lynn Bousman, director of the "Saw" horror series, cast Brightman as Blind Mag, a singer who works for a powerful organ transplantation company in the futuristic society.
"It's quite deep," says Brightman, who was a late casting. "I suppose it's a rock musical...sort of a mix between 'The Rocky Horror Show' and 'Blade Runner.' It's just a very interesting piece."
Brightman enjoyed her "great moment when I was swimming rather sickly looking gore at the end" of the film, but she was also challenged by the musical demands of her "Repo!" role.
"It took me awhile to get used to the music because it's industrial in a way I don't recognize," she explains. "American sort of industrial rock sometimes has a different kind of feeling to it than the European variety.
"But it's still a great piece and I had a great time doing it, and I found Darren very inspirational in the way that he had to make a movie in such a short space of time and obviously on a particular budget. And what he came up with was really, really brilliant, so I was very happy to have done it."
Brightman says there's another film in the offing, "a much more terra firma" project that will start filming in the spring, with much more acting than singing this time. That won't ever replace music, she says, but it will certainly help to keep things "crazy" as she goes on.
"My perspective is I've only done a little bit," Brightman says. "I know a lot of people look at my body of work and go, 'God, that's amazing' and 'That's a lifetime of things you've done' -- and more, probably, than a lot of other people could say for themselves in what I do.
"But, as I said, I feel like I've just done a little bit. I'm so interested in what I do and in the arts and, generally, entertainment and music, I just feel that I have lots more things to do."
ALL HER WORLD'S A STAGE
Five theatrical roles that helped establish Sarah Brightman's star...
* "Cats" (as Jemima), 1981
* "The Pirates of Penzance" (as Kate), 1982
* "Requiem" (as herself), 1985
* "The Merry Widow" (as Valencienne), 2985
* "The Phantom of the Opera" (as Christine Daae), 1986
Sarah Brightman performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 3) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn HIlls. Tickets are $125, $75 and $49.50. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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