Sarah Brightman,
Time to Say Goodbye
(Angel, 1997)

I know this is not the usual grist for the Rambles mill, but a little cultural diversity is good for the soul. It's a CD I pop into the car stereo frequently, especially when public radio is asking for money.

The recording in question is Sarah Brightman's Time to Say Goodbye, which features mostly classical and classical-sounding music. It also features my wife's favorite singer -- the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. That's what I mean about diversity: here we have a British soprano and a Tuscan tenor singing in several languages with celestial voices. In addition, they are backed by the London Symphony Orchestra. These musicians are always present in this recording, but you never seem to notice them; they support the soloists perfectly but never try to take center stage.

A soprano voice is not my favorite sound, but Brightman's is so clear and pure that it's impossible not to be mesmerized. Of course, if you're watching her, it's another story. When she sings, especially operatic arias, her facial contortions are sometimes almost too exaggerated to be believed. But that doesn't detract from her angelic voice. Personally, I prefer to hear a tenor and Bocelli is, in my mind, the Fourth Tenor.

Brightman began performing on stage at age 13 and her flair for the dramatic is evident in her singing. Her penchant for the dramatic can become a bit too much after awhile. That said, the beauty of the melodies is pure joy. In contrast, Bocelli, who is blind, sings so effortlessly and is the perfect counterpart to Brightman's soaring crescendos and trills.

Despite their classical-sounding voices, the pair have climbed to the top of the pop charts in Europe. In Germany, Bocelli's solo version of the title track, "Time to Say Goodbye," sold more than three million copies. The voices of Brightman and Bocelli blend perfectly in this recording. Known also as "Con Te Partiro," it has a melody that will stick in your mind long after the song has ended.

The final two songs are "Encore Tracks," according to the play list. They are "O mio babbino caro," an aria from Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi, and "Alleluja," which is the third part of Mozart's motet "Exsultate, Jubilate." Mozart originally wrote this piece for a castrato and frankly I'm more comfortable hearing Sarah sing this one.

I was not familiar with most of the songs on this CD so it would be somewhat unfair to discuss the artists' execution of them. Suffice it to say that it is easy to see why Brightman has earned the sobriquet "The Angel of Music," and it's easy to see why my wife is in love with Bocelli's voice.

- Rambles
written by Bill Knapp
published 22 February 2003

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