Sarah Brightman is space-bound

STEVE SCOTT
Last updated 05:00 11/05/2013
Sarah Brightman

COSMONAUT-IN-TRAINING: Sarah Brightman

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British soprano Sarah Brightman plans to sing among the stars - literally.

The classical soprano hailed for her role as Christine Daae in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's London production of Phantom of The Opera will be the first recording artist to make a trip into space, planned for 2015.

Brightman is officially a cosmonaut-in-training.

"I have to say anything can happen before that time and I am in my early-50s now so one has to think of one's health," she said.

"But the fact that I have got this far on the journey and am now officially a cosmonaut-in-training is incredibly exciting."

Brightman will be part of a three-person crew who will make the 250-mile journey into space travelling in a Russian Soyuz rocket.

After hooking up with the International Space Station, Brightman will spend eight days in space.

"The rocket really only takes a few minutes to get into orbit and then it takes two days to reach the space station and actually dock there," she explained.

In October last year she made the journey to Star City in Russia to begin training.

Situated on the outskirts of Moscow, Star City has prepared every Russian astronaut since Yuri Gagarin pioneered orbiting the earth on 12 April 1961.

The training at Star City replicates the many conditions of space including spinning in a centrifuge at 170mph and having to withstand eight times the force of gravity in preparation for take-off "which was a bit like having a bear sit on your chest".

Brightman also underwent psychological tests.

"It was a lot more than I expected, but I am happy to say I have passed all my first tests with flying colours," she said.

The singer says she was often reminded of the parallels between her demanding tours when undergoing the tests.

"It's weird really but I am reminded that there are parallels between my life as a touring artist and some of the situations I went through," she said.

"You know you are often put in uncomfortable situations in areas of touring.

"One has to put up with all sorts of temperatures and one is always jet-lagged.

"But at the end of the day, you really do have to deliver on stage and totally focus.

"So when I went for all this training I thought to myself 'I know this feeling, I have kind of been through this experience before in another form'."

While Brightman is known for her role in Phantom, which helped launch a successful solo recording career - selling over 30 million albums and two million DVDs - she says aviation has been in her blood since she was a child.

"I have always been interested in aviation since my parents took me around all the airshows," she said.

"Both my father and my uncle flew light aircraft and in the '80s I did training in a Harrier jump jet. It was very exciting.

"Flying has been part of my life for many years and now this proposed space travel is like an extension of it.

"So as humans I feel we are meant to go upwards and it is inevitable as long as we don't do something terrible to ourselves in the meantime."

Brightman says she will be looking at many possibilities once inside the space station and singing is one of them.

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"Obviously there has got to be a practicality to all of this but you can sing up there and there is just a slight delay down to earth.

"It would be really nice to connect with other musicians on Earth, maybe ones who are in concert depending on trajectory.

"But as a musician, it is something I would like to try to do."

She admits the space flight will be a life-changing event.

"That is why I want to take the trip."

Prior to her spaceflight, Brightman is due for a further eight months intensive training.

"I have between six to eight months further training in Russia which will be very intensive before I head off into space," she said.

"I am really hoping I can get through that, so I can finally be set to go."

If Brightman is successful she will follow Canadian Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberte who took the trip in 2009.

So is Brightman feeling brave?

"I wouldn't say I am brave because I am not fearful of it - it is something I have a need and a want to do.

"I am very excited and it seems so incredibly inspiring to me as an artist."

Meanwhile Brightman, who is based in Los Angeles and is Unesco's Artist For Peace, is preparing to undertake a world tour to promote her recently released album Dream Chaser.

Alongside the current single Angel, Brightman also chose to cover some older material including a rendition of Sir Paul McCartney's Venus and Mars and an excerpt from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.

"I have loved Tubular Bells since I was a child, it was like a modern day symphony really," Brightman said.

"It felt very universal. It made one look upwards - it was very uplifting."

When Oldfield heard the track he was delighted.

"Mike said if he had known he'd be listening to the piece 40 years on he would never have believed it."

Dream Chaser took Brightman four years to complete.

"I feel it is one of my most challenging and personal albums," she said.

During her world tour she says she will speak on Unesco's aims and programmes that will help promote a sustainable vision of our world and its resources.

Brightman's vision of sustainable living coincides with two of Unesco's core mandates: Education and Natural Sciences.

The singer was designated as Unesco Artist for Peace in a ceremony at the organisation's headquarters in Paris in February last year.

Brightman's Dream Chaser Tour begins in Korea in June and includes concerts in China, Japan the USA and South America.

"Bit by bit we will travel the world and hopefully we can reach New Zealand by the end of the year."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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