Bright crossing

The moon. Nothing is as evocative of romance and of alienation. Nothing is at once so barren, yet so vivid. Sarah Brightman’s new album, La Luna, captures not only the enigma that is the moon but its elusive beauty as well. This she achieves not by tethering her lyrics to the theme, but with voice and orchestration.

Brightman has the kind of voice that is difficult to describe or categorize; fragile and tender one moment, robust and sultry the next. She glides seamlessly through classical adaptations, ’60s anthems and contemporary tracks in five languages. In the hands of conventional artists, Handel’s “Solo Con Te” could never co-exist with the trip-hoppy “This Love,” much less be adjacent to it. At times, the transition between Brightman’s pop and opera voices is made within a single song, such as on Dvorak’s “La Luna.”

The album opens with “La Lune,” a quintessential Frank Peterson production — gauzy and moody, laced with ambient sounds and samples. This sets the tone for the infectious “Winter in July,” the strongest track on the album. Haunting background vocals on “This Love” and Beethoven’s “Figlio Perduto” leave them lingering for hours in the listener’s head.

“Scarborough Fair,” however, falls short, mainly because it adds nothing to the Simon and Garfunkel version. On the other hand, Brightman’s undertaking of “Gloomy Sunday” is far bolder. Her silky voice stands in stark contrast to Billie Holiday’s smoky rendition, but is nevertheless chilling. Indeed, La Luna’s material showcases Brightman’s uncanny ability to sing anything under the moon.

While La Luna is not a wall-to-wall soundscape like its predecessor Eden, it is just as hypnotic. Indeed, arrangements that seem barren on tracks like “He Doesn’t See Me” are lush upon a closer listen — contributing to the ethereal mood of the album.

Brightman has had an illustrious past, first as a diva of musical theater in the ’80s (most notably in her ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera), then as a pop-rock singer in the ’90s, and now as a leading classical crossover artist. In La Luna, fans and newcomers alike get a luminous album from a celestial voice.

E-mail Siew May Chin at [email protected].

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