Her original London Cast Album of the musical was released in CD format in 1987 and sold 40 million copies worldwide, making it the biggest-selling cast album of all time.
After retiring from the stage and divorcing Lloyd Webber, Brightman resumed her music career with former Enigma producer Frank Peterson, this time as a classical crossover artist. She is often credited as the creator of this genre and remains among the most prominent performers, with worldwide sales of more than 30 million records and 2 million DVDs, establishing herself as the world's best-selling soprano of all time.
Brightman's 1996 duet with the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, "Time to Say Goodbye", topped charts all over Europe and became the highest and fastest selling single of all time in Germany, where it stayed at the top of the charts for 14 consecutive weeks and sold over 3 million copies. It subsequently became an international success selling 12 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. She has now collected over 180 gold and platinum record awards in 38 different countries. In 2010 she was named by Billboard the 5th most influential and best-selling classical artist of the 2000s decade in the US and according to Nielsen SoundScan, she has sold 6.5 million albums in the country.
In 2012, Brightman was appointed as the UNESCO Artist for Peace for the period 2012–2014, for her "commitment to humanitarian and charitable causes, her contribution, throughout her artistic career, to the promotion of cultural dialogue and the exchanges among cultures, and her dedication to the ideals and aims of the Organization". Also, since 2010, Brightman is Panasonic's global brand ambassador.
Brightman is the eldest of six children of businessman Grenville Geoffrey Brightman (1934–1992) and Paula (Hall) Brightman. Her younger siblings are Nicola, Claudia, Jay, Joel, and Amelia (aka Violet). She was raised in Little Gaddesden near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England. At the age of three she began taking dance and piano classes. She
then went on to perform in local festivals and competitions. At age 11, she successfully auditioned for the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, a school specialising in performing arts.