Madonna on stage tonight: I'm gonna surprise the Vatican

We met the Queen of pop before her show tonight at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. Lady Gaga? "She's a world class artist."

The atmosphere gets tense when Lady Gaga is mentioned. Madonna's PR is curious: "Why don't you talk about the tour? Or the album?" Madonna is a real beam of muscles underneath her light dress, with her perfect hairstyle, that reminds of Ingrid Thulin rather than Marlene Dietrich, the diva she's often compared to, especially in this second part of her career. The girl that in 1987 held a concert in Torino that was broadcasted on TV is now a lady - an iron lady, that she became while in England, married to Guy Ritchie. After "Like A Virgin", Dietrich said: "She doesn't have a voice, but she's got everything else."

Her image became so recognizable that it's impossible for her to have any rivals: a pop icon with a splendid connection to the photo camera, that led to the creation of unforgettable pictures, last seen in the times of Marilyn Monroe. A while later, when Dietrich discovered Madonna's tendency for cinema, said: "I've had some vulgar roles, but she IS vulgar." Meaning, surely, that vulgarity is the necessary ingredient in the creation of a pop icon. And now, after the release of her new album MDNA, she's starting a new trip packed with dance and transgression: tonight in Rome, Thursday in Milan and Saturday in Florence. On the first show, in Tel Aviv, she pissed France of, by showing swastika on the forehead of a political party leader Marine Le Pen. In Istanbul, she did a little striptease by showing her nipple that made 55 000 fans go mad. "And tonight, in Rome, I'm confronting my favorite theme", threatens. "God, the church, catholicism, and the Vatican, now that we're few feet away from it."

Thirty years in the business, nineteen films as an actress and two as a director, nine world tours, three hundred million albums sold, a contract with Live Nation worth 120 million dollars, two marriages (to Sean Penn and Guy Ritchie) and two divorces, two adopted and two children of her own, a boyfriend almost thirty years younger (Brahim Zaibat, also one of her dancers). Madonna is more than just the most powerful woman in the business. Even though her album sales are not as great as before and her tour isn't yet sold out. Is it the crisis or Lady Gaga? From being a "material girl," she's become a lady: elegant, beautiful, demanding, uncompromising. "My blood pressure has fallen the moment I landed in Rome", she says. "Because for the last three months, we worked so hard putting this show together, that three days off seemed like a dream. I feel good here, I feel loved. I can't imagine another place where I'd feel completely relaxed."

It's been twenty five years since your big show in Turin. What's left of that Madonna?
It was my highlight, such an immense crowd, an explosive energy: a show and the feelings that are impossible to recreate. But that Madonna is still here, sitting in front of you.

The new video, "Turn Up The Radio", will be shot in Italy. Where exactly?
I'm not gonna tell you what it's about, but we're gonna film it in Florence, in the only available period between two tour dates.

In what spirit did you create the concept of your show, that may be the darkest one of your career? It shed light on so many difficulties that we live in.
It's a journey from the darkness towards the light. I don't think the world has been fighting more than it is right now, and nobody cares about our planet and its health. It's terrible. It's amazing that, in the time where information travels so fast, people are not motivated at all to use some for their own good. And even though the Internet allowed us to be in other people's lives so much, we've never felt more isolated. It's strange paradox. And not only: we've become more intolerant, we have more prejudices, and that scares me. But there's also the other side: there are people who fight against all this, that want to unite people, to wake them up and remind them they are in charge of their own destinies.

You are a true pop icon, you've taken everything you could out of life and your career: yet, you always seem to take on new challenges. From being an actress, to being a director...
Being a director was a real one: I've been told many times it's a man's job. But I didn't have time to indulge in my femminine side: when you're on set, you have no time for a hairdresser or to shave your legs. You have to take charge of a bunch of men. Other than that, I had to prove to myself I can do it, because it was a new territory for me. I'm very pleased with how it all went, and I'm proud of my movie about Wallis Simpson. I can't wait to do another one.

Do you think the critics prefer smashing a singer who wants to be an actress or a director?
People are always like that, the world is full of prejudices. But who cares! I'm done being an actress, now I want to be a director.

You did a fashion line with your daughter. What did you learn from her, when it comes to style?
Lola is very independent when it comes to it, she has strong opinions and often goes against my will. I like that she's spontaneous, that she pays attention to details I don't usually notice. Of course, sometimes our tastes match, so we wear each other's shoes and clothes. What's important is that this work will give her a sense of responsibility, a motivation.

What would you like finding on your children's iPod? And what do they listen?
I would never discuss their taste, because the music is very personal. They listen to a lot of electronic music, hip hop, Justin Bieber, obviously...

And what do you listen?
Patti Smith and a lot of soundtracks. As you can see, I'm all about the cinema.

How did being a mom change your priorities? You are a rebel and a provocateur that broke all the boundaries. How difficult is it now, to set those boundaries to your kids?
I have no more free time, because every spare moment is dedicated to them, to their fast growing up, to reprimand them when they want to go to bed late, to wait for them to come back from yet another party early in the morning... They're growing up like all the kids, except they're followed by the paparazzis. I don't think I risk to spoil them with my fame. I insist they treat other people with respect and when it comes to certain things, I'm very strict: first comes school and homework, and then everything else. They see me working hard, they know I earned everything I have. I think I'm a good example to them and know I'm a strict mom. On this tour Lola is in charge of the costumes and Rocco is dancing with me on stage. I was very clear: if you want to do it, you'll have to obey certain rules, like all the others. We're all equal.

Do you think the fact you lost your mother at a young age pushed you to grow up faster and to become more mature earlier? To get away sooner?
Surely, not having someone to guide me made me more independent. And yet, I became a rebel because I had a strict father.

How many risks did you take in order to get here? Now, you are completely free to do everything you want.
When you're an artist, the risks are inevitable. Otherwise, you better change your profession.

Keeping balance is always hard, after that much pressure. How do you do it, with Kabbalah?
We, the artists, always spasmodically look for approval from the audience, and we always fight to survive in a crazy world... until you realize it doesn't really matter how many albums you sold or how much money did you earn. What matters is that you don't take yourself too seriously, to make fun of yourself, to not take things too personally and that flattery is not a very good cure for your soul. This is what I learned and what makes my spiritual way.

You always played with religious symbols in your shows, did you prepare anything special for tonight's show?
Of course, I'm counting on a surprise. It's no secret it took me a while to elaborate my strong catholic upbringing through my music, songs, videos, performances.

Is it difficult for an artist to adapt their music to different stages of their life? History taught us changes are dangerous, in the world of pop culture.
Pop means popular, so you have to constantly be up to date with everything that's happening in the world; if you don't, you'll probably lose track. The adapting you mentioned should be an automatic process.

you divorced two times and you're a mother of four. At this point, do you prefer having a man in the house or being single?
Single? Why would I want to be single? It's most certainly nice having a man in the house... or in the garden.

What does it take for a man to seduce Madonna?
A strong personality, ideas and he has to be a good dancer.

Is Lady Gaga a serious threat or another one-hit wonder?
(she closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, holds it for a while. Struggles to stay calm: a strong self-control.)
She's an artist with a great talent.


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