Pure passion: The Sanremo Festival is an Italian institution

Source: arp

Sanremo: the word conjures up a celebration of strong emotions performed live on stage and beamed into the living rooms of millions of Italians. The 73rd “Festival della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo” in the Teatro Ariston was another resounding success, with Marco Mengoni crowned winner with his song “Due vite” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iS4STWKSvk). This is the second time that the pop singer has won this prestigious award, the first was in 2013, and it gives him his entry ticket to the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. His song of bittersweet meanderings through the night, the stars and a love affair suggest he could well come out top there too.

Mengoni and his memorable melody are in the tradition of some of the big names who have all appeared at Sanremo, such as Adriano Celentano, Mina, Eros Ramazzotti and Laura Pausini and even the scandal-hit rock band Måneskin, who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021 with their tongue-in-cheek song entitled “Zitti E Buoni” (“Shut Up and Behave“).

The festival, which started in 1951, has so far been anything but well-behaved. There’s plenty of wonderful trivia to keep people entertained, such as the most flamboyant outfit or scandals on and off the festival stage. Sanremo is not just a music show – it’s a barometer of public opinion for a whole country. An average of over ten million people watched the festival over its five evenings (an astonishing 62.96% of viewers), and an audience on 11 February 2023 of over twelve million. No wonder because at the end of Sanremo’s five days, all of them – both the people in the auditorium and those sitting at home in front of the TV – get to decide who will ultimately take home the award of the golden palm and a lion.

Songs that thrill

Songs from Sanremo provided the soundtrack for post-war Italy, commented on the world with sweet songs of heartache, and ensured that the country’s economic revival was translated into a certain joie de vivre. For decades what is known as “musica leggera” has been one of the country’s leading exports thanks to its blend of seduction, dreams and the dolce vita. Sanremo provides a platform both for up-and-coming artists and seasoned musicians and is produced by Rai and broadcast at prime time. Even Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella insisted on appearing at the opening evening of this long-running festival. Something of a first

Over five days, this idyllic little coastal town on the Ligurian Flower Riviera turns into the beating heart of the music world, jam-packed with established singers and emerging young artists who definitely don’t want to miss out on the competition for the best reviews. Sanremo polarises, but you can’t afford not to stay informed and find out about the highs and lows, who wore what, and the undeniable facts: a moment of horror when Michelle Hunziker tripped on stage, and a big whoop when slalom king Alberto Tomba was broadcast live from the Olympic Games in Calgary in 1988 and the audience saw him win gold.

Surprisingly political

This year too, all eyes were on the stage with its famous stairs when influencer Chiara Ferragni (“La Ferragni”) appeared. She was demanding a greater respect for women’s bodies, before suddenly turning round to reveal the words written on her stole: “Pensati Libera” or “Think yourself free”. This immediately became part of a campaign against femicide on Instagram. Brilliantly hosted by Amadeus (whose name is actually Amedeo Umberto Rita Sebastiani) and Gianni Morandi, Sanremo 2023 offered even more than usual by being both a cultural and a political event.