VIENNA – It’s a concert venue fit for a king – even the King of Pop.
Vienna’s majestic Schoenbrunn Palace, once home to Emperor Franz Joseph and his wasp-waisted consort, Empress Sisi, will serve as the backdrop for what organizers billed Monday as a “global” farewell tribute to Michael Jackson next month.
World Awards Media GmbH, the promoter, said members of Jackson’s family and a “high-profile lineup of international stars” will perform on a multimedia stage built in the shape of a giant crown on the palace’s sculpted grounds.
“For one incredible night Michael Jackson’s unforgettable music will be brought to life again,” World Awards Media said on its Web site. “Some of the world’s leading artists will perform Michael’s greatest hits live in Vienna in front of one of the most fascinating historical sites in Europe and celebrate the life of the ‘King of Pop.”‘
Jackson’s brother Jermaine said recently that Vienna was special for Michael, who “loved castles.” Tickets go on sale Aug. 20.
Organizers said Jermaine Jackson and other family members would perform some of Jackson’s hits. They would not confirm reports that the tribute may include U2, Madonna, Lionel Richie and Whitney Houston, and said a date would be announced soon.
World Awards Media chief Georg Kindel said the event would be held in the first part of September. Jackson died June 25 in Los Angeles.
Many had expected the tribute to be held in London, where Jackson was booked to perform a series of concerts, or a larger European capital such as Berlin, Paris or Rome.
But Friday, on “Larry King Live,” Jermaine Jackson said Vienna was “a very dear place for Michael,” who performed several times in the Austrian capital over the years.
“And he loved castles. And we’re going to have this huge celebration in front of a castle,” Jermaine Jackson said.
Spokespeople for British promoter AEG Live, which had been organizing Jackson’s London concerts, had no immediate comment on the Vienna tribute. But London fans expressed displeasure.
“If he likes castles, they could’ve done it anywhere in the UK. We’ve got them here, too,” said Peter Chowng, a 42-year-old London businessman.
Kindel said he hoped to secure official permission within the next eight days to hold the concert at Schoenbrunn.
The venue has enough standing room to accommodate 85,000 people. The daily Oesterreich said giant screens would be set up in parks around Vienna to handle the huge overflow crowds expected.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Schoenbrunn dates to the 14th century, but it’s best known for more recent occupants: Franz Joseph, Sisi and other members of the royal Habsburg dynasty, which ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Jermaine Jackson said, in a statement on World Awards Media’s Web site, that the concert was conceived as an annual event to keep alive not only Michael Jackson’s music, “but his spirit as well.”
Kindel said a “not insignificant” portion of the proceeds would go to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, which helps patients who can’t afford heart surgery.
Monday’s announcement drew an angry reaction from an organization calling itself Resistance for Peace Vienna.
The group, citing Jackson’s legal entanglements over allegations of child molestation, sent Vienna City Hall and Schoenbrunn’s supervisory board a letter urging authorities not to approve the plan “for ethical reasons.”
Associated Press Writer Karolina Tagaris in London contributed to this report.