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Call it unflinching fearlessness or a solo mission of shuttle diplomacy, but when it comes to the Middle East, Madonna knows no borderlines. In fact, she’s willing to entertain all sides during her MDNA tour, which kicks off May 29 in Israel. “We would love to go play Iran,” Madonna’s longtime manager Guy Oseary tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We would love to play Lebanon, Egypt and Syria at some point. … Obviously, it’s just not possible.”
Indeed, Syria is on the brink of civil war, while Iran continues a tense standoff with the U.S. and Israel over its nuclear program. In fact, the looming threat of pre-emptive action was so grim that it prompted some 1,000 Israeli Madonna fans to form a Facebook page whose sole purpose is to plead with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay any engagement until after her Tel Aviv dates (she later added a second show, aptly titled the “Concert for Peace”).
But Oseary says it would take something more concrete than the mere threat of imminent war to deter his client of 22 years. “It would have to be really serious, where the lives of people working with us are in danger,” he says. “If we got a letter from the government saying it’s a bad time to go, we would still go. This woman doesn’t cancel anything, she just goes.”
That runs contrary to many foreign acts who call off dates in Israel not only because of potential violence, but as a result of political criticism from their fans (Elvis Costello and Santana, among them — more recently, indie rock darlings Cat Power and Tuneyards canceled shows in Tel Aviv as did Grammy-winning jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, who bowed out of her Holy Land concert two days before the curtain was scheduled to rise).
Madonna applied the same logic to uproar over recently enacted anti-gay legislation in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she’s scheduled to play in August. Says Oseary: “With St. Petersburg, she was, like, ‘Why would I ever give up my podium to stand up for someone?'” (Madonna declared on Facebook that she would “come to St. Petersburg and speak up for the gay community and … give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed,” an action that could get her charged under the new law that prohibits “the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.”)
In the meantime, Madonna will simply have to relish in her latest accomplishment: her eighth No. 1 album, MDNA (and first for Interscope after 30 years at Warner Bros.), which is set to sell more 359,000 copies its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and debut atop the Billboard 200. She’s still one No. 1 shy of Barbra Streisand for the most chart-topping albums by a female artist, but you really can’t compare. After all, Babs not only has 20 more years in the game, she rarely ventured beyond continental Europe.
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