- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2006

U2’s political rows

Rock star Bono said Saturday that his commitment to campaigning against poverty caused tensions within U2.

The musician said that at one point he feared his commitment to the anti-poverty cause might force him out of the band.

“They are hugely supportive spiritually and financially of the work I do, but they are in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and the first job of a rock ‘n’ roll band is not to be dull,” Bono told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

“So we have to be very careful about just letting me go too far.”

With fellow musician Bob Geldof, Bono was one of the leaders of last year’s international Make Poverty History campaign and Live 8 concert, and frequently makes onstage statements about global poverty during U2 concerts.

Bono acknowledged that his campaigning had sometimes “raised eyebrows” among his fellow band members.

“When I do my rant on making poverty history, I have got Larry Mullen, our drummer, behind me looking at his watch, timing me,” he said.

“There was one point when I thought, ‘I’m going to be thrown out of the band for this stuff.’”

But Bono said he now feels the other band members recognize that U2’s audience appreciates what he is doing.

“I thought we would wear our audience out, but it hasn’t happened,” he said. “People are smart out there. They know what you are doing, they know the compromises you are making, they get it.”

Americanized ‘Ring’

An Americanized version of Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung,” a series that long has been a symbol of German nationalism, will open March 25 with the Washington National Opera’s production of “Das Rheingold.”

The Washington company will perform all four operas of the Ring for the first time at the Kennedy Center. Co-produced with the San Francisco Opera, each of the four operas will premiere in Washington.

A year after “Das Rheingold” is performed here, the second opera in the series — “Die Walkure” — will be produced, according to the company’s 2006-2007 schedule.

The operas are to be sung in Wagner’s original German text — he wrote the book as well as the music — and will be accompanied by surtitles in English.

“We have coined the term ‘American Ring,’ and the designers and I are using American history, mythology, iconography and landscape to set the operas,” director Francesca Zambello said in a statement to announce the opening.

“We are creating a world in some ways familiar to our audience but also one that will feel very mythic as we look to our country’s rich imagery,” said Ms. Zambello, an American who grew up in Europe.

The character of Erda, the Earth Mother whose daughters are the hard-riding Valkyrie, will wear a costume inspired by the American Indian tradition. The part will be sung by Elena Zaremba, a Russian mezzo-soprano.

“Francesca’s productions are always beautifully balanced between the intimacy of the characters and the sweep of the epic, and I think that she will use the symbols of America brilliantly,” said Placido Domingo, the company’s general director.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from staff and wire reports.

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