Religious leaders may have snubbed Madonna as a publicity-seeking blasphemer, but there was pure adoration from Italian fans when the popstar staged a mock crucifiction at her concert in Rome.
The crowd of 70,000 cheered wildly and many snapped pictures with cell phone cameras when the diva rose from the stage crucified on a mirrored cross and wearing a crown of thorns.
"She does it to play, not to offend," said Benedetta Mori, a 31-year-old fan wearing a T-shirt with an image of Madonna on the cross. "If they allowed her to stage the show here they must also play by her rules."
|Pop star Madonna (C) performs the song "Forbidden Love" between two dancers, with the Star of David and the crescent moon, a symbol of Islam, painted on their bodies, during her concert in Rome on August 6, 2006.|
The planned stunt, part of the singer's worldwide "Confessions" tour, had drawn fire from religious leaders, who condemned it as an act of hostility toward the Roman Catholic Church. Some had wanted her to give up the mock crucifixion during her show at the capital's Olympic Stadium, some 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the Vatican. Madonna's representatives have insisted the performance on the cross is not disrespectful toward the church.
Besides Madonna's rendition of "Live to Tell" while on the cross, religious symbols abounded throughout the two-hour show. Two dancers with a star of David and a Muslim crescent painted on their torsos embraced and held hands during their routine. A figure wearing a robe and turban did a solo on the shofar, a ram's horn traditionally blown during the Jewish high holidays, then joined Madonna to perform "Isaac" _ a song about Yitzhak Luria, a 16th century Jewish mystic and Kabbalah scholar.
"Two miracles have happened," Madonna told the crowd. "Italy won the World Cup and it stopped raining before my show." Keeping in touch with her material side, Madonna also got the crowd moving with her more traditional gyrating dancing and disco-flavored numbers.
"Ciao Roma! Are you ready to ride with me?" said the equestrian-styled Madonna as she opened a concert that included recent hits "Hung up" and "Music" as well as classics "Like a virgin" and "La Isla Bonita."