Concert review: All things Brightman are beautiful, but not triumphant

What: Sarah Brightman

When: Thursday

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Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre

Rating: 3.5 (out of five)

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The show was a spectacle, and the singing was anything but secondary.

It was a Sarah Brightman concert, after all. That’s what the English soprano promises, and delivers, to her fans many months a year.

From the start of the opening number, Angel, swooning orchestral passages cross-pollinated with swells of roof-rattling choruses.

Brightman’s modus operandi? To deliver a perfectly executed operatic package.

She succeeded, though not for the entirety. Her voice was often couched in a maze of window dressing, to such a degree that it was often difficult to discern where she began and the digital effects ended.

By the end of it all, the whiz-bang night of entertainment that was Brightman’s return to Victoria was slightly short of triumphant.

Her talent is evident; for good reason, she is considered in some circles to be among the world’s most popular classical crossover artists. But with each thematic album she records — her latest, Dreamchaser, is a space-themed odyssey — a few tours are liable to miss the mark.

All was certainly not lost.

Brightman’s two-set concert filled Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre with all the ammunition her budget would allow. If there’s one thing the 53-year-old does exceedingly well, it is make the ordinary seem over-the-top (her hi-def video screen was worth the cost of admission alone).

Oddly, it was the small-scale songs that made the biggest bang. She was haunting during La Luna, a lone image of the moon rising behind her, while a fuss-free duet with Swiss singer Erkan Aki (on Canto Della Terra) soared.

And as always, her personal Puccini showcase, Nessun Dorma, was awe-inspiring.

The crowd of 3,185 wasn't what you would call white-knuckled — not like the sold-out assembly at her previous Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre show on Dec. 14, 2008.

During that performance, which happened while a surging snowstorm took hold outside the arena, the stage suffered a 20-minute total power failure, which withheld but did not dismantle her Christmas-themed concert.

If anything, it solidified the union between singer and audience.

Her concert Thursday could have used such an injection of energy. Ballet dancers, multiple costume changes, and a condominium-sized video screen can only do so much.

And comments about her stab at pop music (Simon and Garfunkel, Paul McCartney and Wings) are better left on the cutting-room floor.

Brightman, who inhabited the role of Christine Daaé in the original production of The Phantom of the Opera, revisited Andrew Lloyd Webber’s crowning achievement in grand style, with dramatic help from Aki.

It received the night’s biggest reception, in part because her spectacularly strong voice remained intact as if she were still Christine.

When it comes down to that, no extra tricks are needed.

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