Much like The Phantom of the Opera — the longest-running Broadway musical of all time —composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and singer Sarah Brightman‘s relationship was wrought with drama.
In Lloyd Webber’s new memoir, Unmasked, he reveals he didn’t love Brightman’s voice when they first met, and writes that the singer’s alleged affair with “the original Phantom keyboard player” was part of the reason he left her for his current wife, Madeleine Gurdon.
The 69-year-old composer first met Brightman, a British pop star who is 13 years his junior, briefly at a bar, with their first professional relationship later beginning when she auditioned for Cats in 1981.
“A private meeting was arranged at my London flat,” Lloyd Webber writes, adding, “I thought she had a nice voice and that was about it.” Initially, Lloyd Webber and his team struggled to determine what role she would play. He writes, “It was how she looked and danced that really grabbed me. It was a full two years before I clocked how good a singer she was.”
Brightman was eventually cast as Jemima in the musical.
Two years later, when Lloyd Webber fully realized Brightman’s prowess as a singer, he also fell in love with her and proposed during a romantic vacation — despite the fact that both were married to other people.
But after their divorces were finalized in March 1984, the couple secretly married.
For Lloyd Webber, his marriage to Brightman was intrinsically tied to their work together, as she also starred as Christine Daaé in Phantom of the Opera.
As much as Lloyd Webber was (finally) enraptured by Brightman’s singing, he writes that her career kept her so busy that they decided to wait on having children.
“Sarah’s work meant she was increasingly away from home,” Lloyd Webber explains. “Less than two years into our marriage there was often no one to come home to.”
His wife’s busy career wasn’t the only factor that impacted their marriage. At the end of Unmasked, Lloyd Webber explains how his romance with another woman — now his wife of 27 years — began.
“I met Madeleine Gurdon in 1989 through mutual friends when my marriage to Sarah Brightman had got rocky,” he writes. “There had been publicity about Sarah’s affair with the original Phantom keyboard player, and hugely fond of her as I still am, things weren’t the same for me after that.”
After six years of marriage, in January 1990, Lloyd Webber and Brightman divorced. He would go on to have three children with Gurdon, an accomplished equestrian.
In an article published by PEOPLE in 1990, Brightman said that the end of their six-year relationship “is not something I either wish for or have sought.” She added, “I believe I can continue to have a professional association with Andrew.”
And she did. In 2015, the singer told PEOPLE that she recruited her ex-husband to help her write a song she planned on performing in space (a plan that she later postponed).
In his memoir, Lloyd Webber writes, “Sarah Brightman’s voice will always be very special to me.”
Unmasked is on sale now.