RAI to televise Pope-rock fest

Pubcaster to give free TV, radio, 'Net coverage

ROME — Italian pubcaster RAI will provide 24-hour marathon coverage via free and satellite TV, radio and Internet of events on Monday’s Labor Day holiday, starting with a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II and winding up with a mega-concert with performances from the Eurythmics, Alanis Morissette and Lou Reed, among others.

While the May 1 Italian national holiday traditionally is the occasion of a free, televised rock concert in Rome, the event has been amplified and expanded this year to mark the Vatican’s Holy Year celebrations. The Pope is scheduled to follow the morning Mass with a special message to the workers of the world.

Top-selling tenor Andrea Bocelli then takes the stage to perform in honor of the pope with guests including Israeli singer Noa, who will perform lyrics set to composer Nicola Piovani’s Oscar-winning theme from “Life is Beautiful.”

The day’s main event is being billed as the “Concert for a Debt-Free World,” in collaboration with the Vatican-backed campaign to cancel the debt of Third World countries. During the lead-up to the show, RAI will air documentaries and news specials about debt-afflicted countries.

In addition to the Eurythmics, Morissette and Reed, scheduled performers include Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and popular Italian acts Bluvertigo, Carmen Consoli, Irene Grandi and Max Gazze.

The day’s events — including the Mass, celebrated by the Pope and accompanied by an orchestra and 600 celebrants from all over the world — will take place on a the campus of Rome’s Second University. Staging is by veteran event organizer Riccardo Corato, whose Network company has been involved in setting up large-scale Italian concerts with Madonna, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.

The event will serve as a trial run for what national media has dubbed “The Pope’s Woodstock,” a massive concert scheduled to take place Aug. 20 in Rome, to mark the Church’s World Youth Day. An audience of 1.5 million is expected to attend.

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