Madonna admits she is pushing her body to the limit as she prepares for a world tour that has got all of Abu Dhabi talking - but she insists it will be worth it if she delivers the greatest show of her careerThe pop superstar has been working "flat out" in a bid to perfect it for her MDNA show, which comes to an expectant Yas Arena audience for back-to-back shows on June 3 and 4, as she claims the nights at the start of a tour are always her favourite.
"I enjoy the first two weeks of a tour more than any other," says Madonna. "That is when you are getting everything just right and it's so exciting to see it all come together.
"To stand on stage and have the visceral connection with humans who love your music, there is nothing quite like it. I love acting, writing songs and everything else I do, but performing live has always been the most rewarding part of my job."
If Madonna's electrifying performance at February's Super Bowl XLVI is anything to go by, those of us who have tickets for her Abu Dhabi shows are in for a real treat. Despite being hampered by a hamstring injury sustained in rehearsals for her half-time set, the first lady of pop delivered in a grand manner.
However, she reveals that blind fear rippled through her as she prepared to perform in front of the watching world, with the woman who has helped to nurture an image of being as tough as she is formidable conceding she was shaking in her black, knee-high boots as she took to the Super Bowl stage.
"It was terrifying," says the singer. "They say 170 million will be watching and when you hear that number, it would make anyone nervous.
"I had to keep pinching myself to remind myself that I was at the Super Bowl.
"In more than 25 years of performing, I've never worked so hard to be so scrupulous in trying to retain my sanity and produce the most amazing show. The world watches the Super Bowl, so it isn't a great place to mess up."
Classic hits Vogue, Music, Open Your Heart and the career-defining Like A Prayer made it on to her Super Bowl set list but UAE fans can expect much more when the full show hits Yas Arena.
"The people who worked with me on my performance at the Super Bowl are with me for the tour and hopefully we give people a show that is worth the money they are paying out," she says.
"We are putting in a lot of hard work to get this right and it's quite a violent show at times, very high-energy. There are plenty of bruises covering my body to prove it.
"I like to put it all in there. It is part of the work ethic that my dad put into me and the same idea I am trying to give my own kids now. So I have been working and making sure I'm ready for this tour, but I like to be in great shape anyway. Some Pilates, some cardio, some jump rope. It's all part of the preparation."
Recent photographs of a trim Madonna, taken between rehearsals for the MDNA tour, inspired some media cynics to suggest the 53-year-old is looking gaunt, with her agent Liz Rosenberg quick to insist that her star client is "in great shape" ahead of her gruelling schedule in the second half of 2012.
Such speculation will hardly concern a woman who has been the focus of camera lenses for 30 years, with her ability to brush off tabloid newspaper rumours a part of her daily routine for as long as she can remember.
"One thing I have learnt down the years is, don't take anything personally," she says. "If you do, it will destroy you. Don't read anything about yourself, I guess that is a good idea if you are someone like me."
It's not surprising that the subject of celebrity is Madonna's least favourite. "The truth is subjective," she says, "and at times we are told about something that has happened in history through the eyes of the storyteller."
The recent release of W.E., which was co-written and directed by Madonna, tapped into the celebrity culture she so despises. It told the story of King Edward VIII's love affair with Wallis Simpson, which infamously led to him abdicating the British throne in December 1936.
"There are so many rumours about Wallis out there, so many negative things written as fact, which shows that rumours have been made up about iconic people since the beginning of time," says Madonna. "That was interesting to me. Reducing our iconic figures to a few sound bites is something we seem intent on doing.
"As I looked into her story, you can see that there was no evidence that the negative stories about her had any merit. All these years on, I can associate with her as there are plenty of stories about me that are considered to be fact and they are not even close to being true."