ROAR: Much ado about Madonna’s concert in Russia

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The preparation for the pop star’s show in St. Petersburg has provoked a burst of emotions from fans, politicians, critics and the military.

Madonna is giving her only concert in Russia in St. Petersburg on August 2 as part of her “Sticky and Sweet” tour. The pop star is to perform on St. Pete’s Palace Square.

Media report that it will be Madonna’s second performance in Russia. She is said to have accepted the lowest fee for the concert because she wanted to visit St. Petersburg.

After her first performance in Russia three years ago Orthodox activists protested against the use of religious symbols during the concert. This time, a group of Communists from St. Petersburg has urged Madonna to be modest at the square, situated next to the Winter Palace, which was stormed by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

The same group also suggested that Madonna perform a revolutionary song as a tribute to the revolution. The appeal is not an official position of Russia’s Communist Party.

Madonna is also performing on Paratroopers Day, when former paratroopers usually gather on Russian streets and in parks. St. Pete’s Palace Square is also a place where they are planning to party.

Lieutenant-General Vladimir Shamanov, commander of the Russian paratroops, has hailed Madonna’s visit and said her performance was “a great honor for us.”

“Let’s say that Madonna is coming to congratulate all Russian paratroopers,” Shamanov told reporters.

Some other politicians from St. Petersburg do not seem to be as friendly as the head of the Russian paratroopers, or even a group of Communists. Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a government daily, reported at the beginning of July that the deputies of St. Pete’s legislature wanted to take legal action against the pop star because she had used a Russian swear word in a taped promo made for the concert in Russia.

Aleksey Kovalev, deputy of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly, told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that Madonna linked “a swear word with Palace Square.”

“The fact that she allegedly does not know what her words mean is not an argument. It does not matter what she does not know,” he said.

The organizers of the concert told the Delovoy Peterburg newspaper that they had asked Madonna to make a promo, but after hearing it they decided to use only part of it on radio stations.

Marianna Lyubina, a PR director for the concert’s organizers, was quoted by the paper as saying that the “the audio accidentally leaked on to the internet.” In the end, the swear word was removed from the promo.

Madonna did not mean to offend anyone, a press representative of the European Media group, Veronika Gorbunova, told the Lenizdat.ru website. The pop star simply wanted to say she was happy to visit St. Petersburg and meet her Russian fans, Gorbunova added.

However, Kovalev said the pop star had offended the city and harmed the image of Russia’s cultural capital. The media reported that he asked St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko if the city was going to demand compensation for the offence.

The deputy also wants Madonna to pay for the use of the city’s square because it is a public place. Kovalev said the preparatory work took a long time, and the palace would not be accessible to the general public.

“Such performances are illegal because Palace Square is the most important part of the city,” Kovalev said. “Why is it used for commercial purposes?”

“Theoretically, we can win all profits [from the organizers] by court action. I hope this will be the last commercial concert performed here without any payment,” he said.

Kovalev received an answer from St. Petersburg’s deputy governor Yury Molchanov, Fontanka.ru website reported. The letter says that Madonna’s promo did not damage the city’s business reputation.

The city’s authorities were not going to sue the pop star for the audio, the website said. At the same time, they hope to get a part of the profits from the concert.

Marianna Lyubina, in her turn, told Komsomolskaya Pravda that there had never been agreements for the lease of Palace Square. “Nevertheless, payment will be made to the city’s budget as tax from the profits,” she added.

Lyubina stressed that the city would benefit in any case from Madonna’s performance. “Many tourists will arrive in Petersburg for the concert. They will do their shopping, pay for accommodation and food,” she said.

She also explained why there is so much ado about Madonna’s performance in St. Pete. “Simply put, Madonna’s concert is a global event that provokes a general interest, and a lot of people want to speak on this,” she said.

However, many readers in their comments on websites have criticized politicians for using Madonna’s performance for their benefit. One of them, in a comment posted on Komsomolskaya Pravda’s website, called Kovalev’s accusations “populism.”

The reader also said it was “silly to speak against the Western queen.” At the same time, another reader said it was time to stop carrying out performances on Palace Square.

While some papers speculate as to whether Madonna will try to adopt a Russian child in St. Petersburg, Boris Barabanov, in the Ogonek weekly, considers the role of scandal in Madonna’s performances.

Three years ago, Madonna’s performance was “a real scandal,” he writes, because the organizers and the concert venue constantly changed. In the end, the performance was not a success.

This time, the performance is being organized by one of the strongest concert companies in St. Petersburg, and tickets have sold well, the critic said.

Barabanov called Madonna one of the few pop stars who surprise people by the big budgets of their performances. “The person [identity of the singer] is not important in principle,” Barabanov said. “It is the general informational and emotional impression that is important,” he added.

Sergey Borisov, RT