Streisand warms to Germany with Berlin concert

BERLIN (Reuters) - Barbra Streisand told a sell-out Berlin concert crowd on Saturday that she was delighted to perform in Germany for the first time after turning down several invitations in the past.

Entertainer Barbra Streisand performs on the stage in Berlin June 30, 2007. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

German media have linked the Jewish star’s refusal to sing there previously to Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust and had hailed her decision to appear.

Streisand quickly warmed to the enthusiastic audience of 18,000 that gave her more than a dozen standing ovations.

“I’m so very happy to be in your country,” Streisand said, speaking in flawless German, after the crowd warmed themselves up and brought her orchestra to their feet with a series of pre-concert stadium waves.

“It’s exciting for me to be here, too,” Streisand added before listing some of the things she likes about Germany -- from currywurst to apple strudel and Beethoven to Bach. She recited a Goethe poem, which she said was a lifelong favorite.

“Germany has always been a place where you buy a lot of my records. I feel very good here. I’m always amazed how music can transcend all our differences. Even though I may complain about certain things, I’ve come to look at the glass as half full.”

Streisand, one of the best-selling female artists of all time, is on a six-week, eight-city tour through Europe.

“I’m really glad to be in your city -- it’s filled with culture...and the deserts I love,” Streisand said in the open-air Waldbuehne arena, next to Berlin’s Olympic stadium used for the 1936 Olympics and tarnished by its association with the Nazis.

Paul Spiegel, late leader of Germany’s Jewish community, said he had made repeated appeals to her to come, and, before dying last year, Spiegel blamed her refusal on the Holocaust.

“Barbra Streisand was the only one,” Spiegel said, when asked if artists had reservations about Germany. Spiegel, a top German talent agent, said he could understand her stance.

The 65-year-old singer did not want to comment on her reasons for not coming to Germany in her career before. But in a statement to Reuters on Friday she had said: “Germany is a very different place than it was before World War Two.”

Born in New York to Jewish American parents in 1942, according to online biographies, Streisand has never played outside North America except for London and Australia.

“Thank you for coming to Berlin!” shouted one fan at one point late in her 2-1/2 hour long show.

“It’s my pleasure -- I’m thrilled to be here,” she replied.

Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in London