We The Italians | Italian entertainment: The Sanremo Festival

Italian entertainment: The Sanremo Festival

Italian entertainment: The Sanremo Festival

  • WTI Magazine #136 Feb 20, 2021
  • 835

2021 has just started and Italy and the entire world is still struggling against the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, Italians are not willing to renounce the most awaited musical festival known everywhere: the Sanremo Music Festival.

The Sanremo Festival has a long tradition, actually this year we celebrate its 70th birthday. Something worth noticing is that, through the time, the festival has experienced a deep transformation not only from the musical point of view. Indeed, besides the artists competing, some other fundamental figures of the festival have changed, giving the contest a different trait, almost revolutionizing its nature and representation. The roles of the presenter and co-presenters have evidently symbolized this transition. Until the ‘80s, the Sanremo Festival’s presenter was considered a “simple officiant” of the event, merely introducing the singers, accompanied by some then famous TV announcers and showgirls. The most well-known example of those years had probably been the exceptional Italian American television host Mike Bongiorno (1963-1967, 1972-1973, 1975, 1977).

From the ‘80s the presenter and his accompaniers slightly started to turn into the protagonists of the festival, transforming the musical competition in a real entertainment show. This innovation was primarily manifested by the choice of giving the roles of presenter and co-presenters to comic actors: in 1980 Claudio Cecchetto, a famous disk jockey and radio host, was backed up by the amusing comedian Roberto Benigni. Then the participation of comic actors, especially men, became more and more frequent, even substituting the figure of the previous showgirls. These were the cases of the co-presenters Piero Chiambretti (1997, 2001, 2008), Teo Teocoli (2000), Massimo Ceccherini (2001), Maurizio Crozza and Gene Gnocchi (2004), Luca Laurenti (2009), Paolo Kessisoglu and Luca Bizzarri (2011), Rocco Papaleo (2012), Claudio Bisio (2019), Fiorello (2020).

This evident transformation was also signed by the evolution of the women’s role in the Festival, which inevitably reflected the change of their role in the Italian society. Women started to present the Sanremo Festival only from the late ‘70s (Maria Giovanna Elmi, 1978) becoming more and more the queens of the show through the years: Loretta Goggi (1986), Raffaella Carrà (2001), Simona Ventura (2004), Antonella Clerici (2010), Luciana Littizzetto (2013-2014). Also, some hilarious women comedians enjoyed to exhibit during the festival: this was the case of the funny sketches of Paola Cortellesi (2004) and Virginia Raffaele (2019).

Over the years, the Sanremo Music Festival has become a huge TV-show, based not only on the music, but also on the entertainment, trying to charm the public with talented singers and, in the meantime, with celebrated guests and artists from cinema and theatre. This is probably the reason why, as time passes, media have become more and more interested in the event, starting to speak about it months earlier.   

As the start date approaches, almost all the Italian newscasts and many TV shows happen on the subject of the festival, sending correspondents in Sanremo and interviewing some of the invited guests and participant singers. This circumstance becomes more intense almost the week before the awaited competition and radically increases the whole week of broadcasting. The focus on the event usually continues weeks after its end, obviously marked by harsh debates: did that singer deserve the victory? Was the presenter capable to conquer the public’s attention?

2021 Sanremo Festival will be presented from March 2nd to March 6th by the great television host Amadeus, accompanied by the famous comedian and showman Fiorello and the gracious singer Elodie. Among the singers some veterans of the Italian music will be racing, such as Orietta Berti, Max Gazzè and Francesco Renga. There will be many young debutants too, such as Random, Fulminacci, Gaia, Madame, Maneskin. Special guest of all the nights will be the extravagant singer Achille Lauro, who participated in the last edition of the show wearing eccentric women’s clothes and tight glittered suits.

Because of covid, many options have been pondered regarding the possibility of hosting the public in the historic Ariston theatre, where the Festival has taken place since 1977. The most accredited one was of isolating the guests in a cruise ship two weeks before the big event. Finally the protocol presented by the National Italian Television has been approved by the scientific technical committee: there won’t be a public hosted for the 2021 Sanremo Festival and the theatre will be organized as a television studio, following several measures in order to reduce the Covid contamination. This decision has been followed by many criticisms, especially from some important personalities of the Italian entertainment world. Surely, this year, the vocal celebration will have a different facet but it’ll be a much needed distraction from the situation we’re living in… as the motto says: “Perchè Sanremo è Sanremo!” (Because Sanremo is Sanremo!).