In the ’80s they conquered Broadway with Phantom of the Opera and Cats. Now, Sarah Brightman and ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Webber have their sights set on an altogether bigger target: Space.
Once again it will be Brightman, 54, who’s in the lead role: The English soprano is preparing to fly to the International Space Station on Sept. 1 with the intent to become the first professional musician in history to perform live from orbit.
“An engineer or someone from the sciences or biology would go up into space and do what they can – their experiments. But with me all I can do is sing,” Brightman revealed at a press conference for her spaceflight Tuesday in London.
“I would like to connect with a choir, or children or an orchestra on Earth because I think that will be a very beautiful thing,” she said.
Problem is: just how do you find a song that’s suitable to sing from space when you have sold 30 million records? Solution: recruit ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Webber to help.
“He has come up with the most beautiful line for something, so we are just taking it slowly at the moment,” she said. “It’s finding a song which suits the idea of space and something that is incredibly simple because to sing in microgravity is a very, very different thing to singing down here.”
Should Brightman pull it off she will become the first artist in history to record live from space.
But the trip won’t be all about singing.
Working as part of a three-person team, Brightman will blast off in a Soyuz space rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the Kazakhstan desert. After a six-hour flight she will spend 10 days in space, orbiting the Earth 16 times daily and be expected to assist in many of the vital functions of the $160 billion space station.
To prepare for the adventure, Brightman has undergone two years of strenuous tests with NASA and at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia.
It’s estimated she paid about $50 million for the experience, according to the BBC, which also reports that the last space tourist to blast off was Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte in 2009.
Strangely, Brightman said the big lesson she’s learned after taking a crash course in Russian and physics is that the glitzy, sequined world of showbiz is not so far removed from the hard-nosed dangers of rocket science.
“When you are performing you are traveling around for years and going to different venues and different countries,” she explained. “You are continually jet-lagged, you are up against time, you have to make fast decisions, you have to think on your feet, you are often sweating in costumes. And at the end of the day when you are a solo performer and something goes wrong then everyone comes to you, even though everybody does an amazing job.”
“So when I started getting into the program I actually realized that I understand all the feelings I am going through,” she continued. “It wasn’t a shock to me. I am able to take command. I am able to make decisions. I am able to get through fear.”
In fact, just about the only obstacle to hold Brightman back so far has been her own self-doubt. While she has wanted to step into space since she watched Neal Armstrong land on the Moon as a little girl, she initially believed she was simply too old to make the grade in astronaut school – a thought that was quickly dispelled.
And how does she feel as a 54-year-old who’s about to take the ultimate leap?
“Wonderful,” added Brightman. “It is not easy getting to space.”