Like her last album, Eden, Sarah Brightman’s La Luna is a mix of covers and traditional classical interpretations with a few originals thrown in for good measure. Her voice, viewed by some as one of the best of our time, is the album’s centerpiece and it rarely leaves the spotlight.“Scarborough Fair,” the British folk song made popular by Simon & Garfunkel, is updated delicately on La Luna. The medieval tune speaks of love that demands the impossible, with Brightman continually asking for “parsley, rosemary and thyme.” (The herbs symbolize the virtues she asks that her lost love bring back with him.) The enchanting “Figlio Perduto,” based on the Allegretto movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony, gives us our first glimpse of Brightman’s powerful soprano. The track begins with an Enya-esque new age vocal arrangement and slowly builds to a climax featuring the English National Choir.
“Hijo de la Luna” is one of many tracks that make reference to the moon. This particular tale is a mythological tragedy in which a gypsy woman sacrifices her first born to the moon in exchange for a husband. The story ends with the man murdering the gypsy and leaving the child to be cared for by the moon. The album’s title track is based on an aria from Antonin Dvorak’s opera “Rusalka.” Brightman sings of a protective moon, and though her dramatic vocal recalls her theater roots, her amazing vocal talent isn’t always the focus on La Luna. “He Doesn’t See Me” is an affected adaptation of “She Doesn’t See Him,” displaying a tender uncertainty and self-deprecation: “The closer he gets/I can’t help but hide/So ashamed of my body and voice.“At times Brightman’s classical training seems to overshadow the more standard pop fare on the album. All depth seems to be lost in her somewhat mechanical take of Procol Harum’s classic “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” She sings “The room was humming harder/As the ceiling flew away” with little profundity, if any. The album includes a jazzy rendition of the historically controversial Hungarian song “Gloomy Sunday,” and it is darkly stirring until the final verse. Originally written in 1933 with a more hopeful ending added years later, this cover shifts moods too abruptly and is ultimately ineffective.
To round things out, La Luna features two electronica-lite pop songs. “Winter In July” explores death and the purpose of life rather optimistically, while “This Love” knowingly attempts to characterize what cannot be defined: “This love never has to say love/Doesn’t know it is love.” The album even features a cover of Dido’s “Here with Me,” and it’s nearly identical to that singer’s version. The album’s focus is clearly Brightman’s vocals, yet the choice of material and its production and arrangement (done here by Frank Peterson) provide a stunning backdrop for the famous Broadway star. While many singers these days aren’t quite satisfied with just being vocalists, Brightman is well aware of her strengths.