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After months of heavy publicity, Kelly Clarkson, the American Idol with a huge Israeli fan base, canceled the Tel Aviv leg of her world tour Wednesday night.
Citing a worsening throat infection that had already forced the cancellation of a recent concert in Paris, Clarkson's Israeli representatives apologized on the singer's behalf and assured fans they would receive full refunds for tickets to the two shows, which had been scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday at Tel Aviv's Hangar 11.
The cancellation of the shows came as a major anticlimax for Israeli music fans, who had excitedly awaited Clarkson's arrival since the surprise announcement last fall that Israel would serve as the final stop on the pop star's world tour. The announcement of the singer's visit to Tel Aviv came at the urging of Danny Weissfeld, the Israeli guitarist who plays in Clarkson's band.
Concert promoters said Wednesday they hoped to reschedule Clarkson's Israeli concerts in the near future but gave no further details. Now returning home to the US, the singer is scheduled to make her next major public appearance at the MTV Asia Awards in May.
Israeli music fans expressed a range of reactions to the announcement Thursday, voicing both disappointment and skepticism about Clarkson's reasons for calling off the concerts. Postings on the Internet theorized that an outbreak of avian flu in Israel earlier this week may have been responsible for the cancellation, while one on-line commentator suggested the true culprit had been what he claimed was Clarkson fans' support of last summer's disengagement from Gaza.
Clearly not at fault, however, was fan interest in the singer, whose single "Because of You" remains in heavy rotation on Israeli radio stations. Tickets to the singer's Tel Aviv shows, priced at NIS 75, sold out within two days of going on sale, and by this week were being offered on the Internet for as much as NIS 250.
Telecom company Orange, a sponsor of the concerts, continued to run TV ads Thursday featuring Clarkson and promoting live Internet broadcasts of the performances.
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Clarkson worked at a movie theater and as a waitress before rocketing to stardom with her victory on American Idol, the televised singing contest now in its smash fifth season.
"Breakaway," the follow-up to the singer's multi-platinum debut, combined critical respect with huge worldwide sales and netted Clarkson two Grammys earlier this year.
Fans' disappointed by the singer's last-minute cancellations can take solace in the announcement earlier this week that three other major international music stars are set to perform in Israel this summer. Sting, Ricky Martin and 50 Cent, each a frequent presence on the global pop charts, will play in Israel in June.