Alicia, Oprah and Carlos Rock Out in Rome
Oprah Winfrey welcomed the tens of thousands of people to the event, which, as she reminded them, was taking place only weeks after the world marked the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, "where it seemed the world turned its back."
"But that's all changing tonight because we are all here," said Winfrey, 50, according to the Associated Press. "We are all here to stand up for the children."
Those on the roster included musicians Alicia Keys, Andrea Bocelli and Norah Jones, who sang in a prerecorded video. Israeli, Palestinian, Pakistani, Colombian and South African artists joined such presenters as Angelina Jolie, Naomi Campbell and Natassja Kinski.
Carlos Santana, 56, brought a decidedly political message to his act, telling the crowd: "We are the other side of America. We are not Bush!"
"Rome was chosen as the venue," Jones, 71, told PEOPLE late last week, "because Rome is a city that has over the millennia gone through much turmoil and yet has come out victorious."
The concert aired live on MTV in Italy, and a shorter version will be broadcast at later dates in other MTV markets. A new song, "We Are the Future" – written by Jones's son and grandson – was recorded live during the concert.
A DVD, book and live recording of the concert are also expected to go on sale.
As Jones also explained: "This project will never end. Hopefully it will outlive the grandchildren of my grandchildren, and this is why everybody is excited."