Showing posts with label Gianni Morandi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gianni Morandi. Show all posts

31 January 2024

Sanremo Music Festival - song contest

Historic annual event that inspired Eurovision 

Nilla Pizzi won the first two editions of the Sanremo Festival
Nilla Pizzi won the first two
editions of the Sanremo Festival
The first annual Sanremo Music Festival reached its conclusion on this day in 1951 with the song Grazie dei fiori - Thank You for the Flowers - announced as the winner, performed by the singer and actress Nilla Pizzi.

The festival is the world’s longest-running televised music contest, having been broadcast live by Italian state broadcaster Rai every year since 1955.  The Eurovision Song Contest, which was staged for the first time in 1956, was modelled on Sanremo.

Compared with the 2024 edition - the 74th - which is due to be staged from February 6 to February 10 and in which the public vote is crucial - the inaugural competition was very different. There were 20 songs to be judged by a committee of experts who determined the result, but only three participants - Pizzi, Achille Togliani and the Duo Fasano, which consisted of twin sisters Dina and Delfina Fasano.

All of the participants had to perform all of the songs over the course of the three nights with the judges having to decide on both the merits of the song and the quality of the three different renditions before settling on their winner. They were so impressed with Pizzi that the following year she not only was their choice to win the competition but took second and third places too.

The first contest had a different venue. From 1951 until 1977 its home was the beautiful Liberty-style Casinò di Sanremo, situated a street or two back from the resort’s waterfront. In 1977, however, the casino was closed for renovations and the festival was switched to the Teatro Ariston, the biggest theatre in the town with an audience capacity much larger than the casino. With the exception of one year, the Ariston has hosted the competition ever since.

The Casinò di Sanremo, a fine example of Stile Liberty architecture, was the Festival's first home
The Casinò di Sanremo, a fine example of Stile
Liberty architecture, was the Festival's first home
Had history unfolded differently, the annual festival might have had not only a different venue but a different location entirely. The original Festival della Canzone Italiana - the Italian Song Festival, which remains the competition’s official name - took place in Viareggio on the Tuscan coast rather than the Ligurian resort with which it is synonymous. 

After successfully staging the competition in 1948 and 1949, however, the Viareggio organisers ran into financial difficulties and the planned 1950 edition was cancelled.

Help was at hand. In Sanremo, which in common with Viareggio and other resorts was looking for ways to revive economies left in tatters by World War Two, Piero Bussetti, administrator of the Casino di Sanremo, met with Giulio Razzi, the conductor of the Rai orchestra, to discuss relaunching the competition in Sanremo, to showcase previously unreleased songs.

It was through their initiative that the 1951 event, the last night of which was broadcast on the Rai radio station Rete Rossa, came to fruition.

Over the years the festival rules have been changed multiple times, allowing more participant singers, involving international artists and some high profile guests.  Different categories were added to the main competition, including a section for newcomers that has been the launching pad for many illustrious careers, with Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini and Andrea Bocelli among the list of past winners.

A youthful Eros Ramazzotti, best newcomer in 1984
A youthful Eros Ramazzotti,
best newcomer in 1984
Zucchero and Vasco Rossi are two other Italian stars who can thank Sanremo for launching their careers, while the roll call of big-name winners - in Italy, at least - includes Claudio Villa, Domenico Modugno, Adriano Celentano, Peppino Di Capri, Toto Cutugno, Gianni Morandi and, more recently, Il Volo.

Villa and Modugno each won the competition four times. Il Volo, winners in 2015 with Grande Amore, are competing again in 2024 among 27 artists bidding for the crown of champions.

At its most prestigious peak, guest performers at the festival have included Queen, Elton John, Tina Turner, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Whitney Houston. 

As well as providing the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest, which was launched in 1956 with a similar format, the link between Sanremo and Eurovision has been maintained by the Italian tradition of picking the winner of Sanremo as nation’s entry for Eurovision.  Two of the three Italian successes at Eurovision - Gigliola Cinquetti in 1964 with Non ho l'età and the rock group Maneskin in 2021 with Zitti e buoni were Sanremo victors.

Sanremo was a holiday destination for the wealthy
Sanremo was a holiday
destination for the wealthy
Travel tip:

The resort of Sanremo in Liguria, which can be found 146km (91 miles) southwest of Genoa as the Italian Riviera extends towards France, enjoyed particular prestige even before the Music Festival put it on the cultural map. The town expanded rapidly in the mid-18th century, when the phenomenon of tourism began to take hold among the wealthy. Several grand hotels were established and the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia was among the European royals who took holidays there. The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, who bequeathed money in his will to establish the prizes that take his name, was so taken with the elegance of the town after his holiday visits that he made it his permanent home. Known as the City of Flowers, it is characterised by its Stile Liberty architecture (the Italian variant of Art Nouveau), of which the Casinò di Sanremo in Corso degli Inglesi is a beautiful example.

The Viareggio Carnival is famous for its huge and often highly symbolic floats
The Viareggio Carnival is famous for its huge
and often highly symbolic floats
Travel tip:

Viareggio, which might have remained home to the contest now synonymous with Sanremo had the organisers of the first editions of the Italian Song Festival not run into financial difficulty, is a popular seaside resort in Tuscany, about 26km (16 miles) from the city of Lucca and a similar distance north of the port city of Pisa. It has beautiful sandy beaches and, like Sanremo, some fine examples of Liberty-style architecture, which include the Grand Hotel Royal. It may not have a music festival to compare with Sanremo but it does have the Viareggio Carnival, which is the most famous in Italy after the Venice Carnival. Dating back to 1873, the carnival is famous for its enormous papier-mâché floats, which parade along the resort’s promenade. Often sending up well-known figures from politics and entertainment in giant caricatures mounted on the floats, the carnival has a more humorous side than its better-known counterpart, contributing to a lively atmosphere around the town. 

Also on this day:


11 December 2017

Gianni Morandi – actor and pop singer

Veteran entertainer has sold 50 million records 

Gianni Morandi has been in the music  business for 55 years
Gianni Morandi has been in the music
business for 55 years
The singer Gianni Morandi, a Sanremo Festival winner and Eurovision Song Contest contestant who has sold more than 50 million records and had a simultaneous career as a successful TV and film actor, was born on this day in 1944 in a mountain village in Emilia-Romagna.

Morandi, whose longevity has brought comparisons with the British singer Sir Cliff Richard, is still performing today at the age of 73. In fact, he had an unlikely hit this year when he teamed up with 23-year-old rapper and web star Fabio Rovazzi.

Morandi, whose pop-ballad style still has a big following, showed his versatility and willingness to indulge in self-mocking humour this year by co-starring with Rovazzi in an electro-pop track and video called Volare that went to No 1 on iTunes Italy and attracted 2.5 million views in less than 24 hours.

He has also appeared in his 11th TV drama series, having a few months earlier seen the release of his 18th movie.

His birthday is being marked today with a late-evening special on Italy’s Canale 5 television station called Amore d’Autore, which celebrates the public and private life of one of Italy’s best-loved entertainers.

Morandi on stage in 2016: He still performs regularly
Morandi on stage in 2016: He still
performs regularly
Morandi was born in Monghidoro, now a village of almost 4,000 people that sits on a ridge in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines some 840m (2,750ft) above sea level, about 41km (25 miles) south of Bologna.

As a young man he sold drinks and confectionery at his local cinema and worked as an assistant in the workshop of his father, Renato, a cobbler.  Renato was an active member of the Italian Communist Party and Morandi recalls that part of his daily routine was to read aloud passages from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and reports from the party newspaper L’Unità.

But they were also a family who sang to entertain themselves and it was when his father arranged for him to sing at family festivals sponsored by L’Unità that Morandi enjoyed his first commercial success, collecting a princely 1,000 lire as his appearance fee.

In 1958, his rendition of Domenico Modugno’s Sanremo winner Nel blu dipinto di blu – more commonly known as Volare – earned him a place at a singing school in Bologna and after winning good reviews at a number of festivals he released his first single in 1962, with backing from Ennio Morricone’s orchestra.

With a recording contract from RCA, he had a juke-box hit and his first chart success later in the same year before releasing his first album in 1963. 

Throughout the 60s, he was a star of the Italian pop scene. His 1964 single In ginocchio da te (Kneeling before you) was at the top of the Italian singles charts for 17 weeks, selling more than one million copies, and was followed by several more number one successes.

Morandi performing at the Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam in 1970
Morandi performing at the Eurovision Song
Contest in Amsterdam in 1970
He courted controversy while at the early peak of his fame by recording a protest song against the Vietnam War which the television networks refused to promote yet which still reached number one in the chart.

Ironically, his career was then interrupted by compulsory national service.

When he returned to civilian life, he was chosen to participate for Italy in the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest in Amsterdam, in which he finished eighth behind the young Irish singer Dana’s entry All Kinds of Everything, but thereafter his career went into a decline.

He enjoyed a revival in the 1980s, started by his success as an actor in TV dramas, and by 1987, when he won the Sanremo Festival with Si può dare di più, he was again popular and an album recorded with his friend, the singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla, was very well received.

Since then, Morandi has become something of an icon in the entertainment world in Italy. His concert tours, often marathon affairs lasting more than a year and packing in hundreds of dates, would sell out months in advance, and he has fronted many TV shows.

In 2013, his two Gianni Morandi – Live concerts at the Arena di Verona were broadcast live on Canale 5 with an average audience of 6 million.  Cher and Ennio Morricone were among the artists who made guest appearances.

Morandi (right) in one of his earliest TV dramas, in 1966
Morandi (right) in one of his earliest TV dramas, in 1966
Morandi has been married twice – for the first time, from 1966 to 1979, to Laura Efrikian, the daughter of an Armenian conductor, with whom he had three children: Serena (1967), who sadly died after only a few hours, Marianna (1969) and Marco (1974). He has five grandchildren.

In November, 2004 he married Anna Dan, his partner of 10 years and the mother of his son, Pietro, and the couple moved into a renovated house in the regional park of Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi dell'Abbadessa.

Morandi owes his enduring physical fitness to a passion for marathon running. He has raced in 10 marathons, including New York (twice), Berlin, London, Paris, Milan and Bologna.

Away from the entertainment business, he is a lifelong fan of Bologna Football Club, which he helped saved from bankruptcy in 2010 before being appointed honorary president later in the same year, a position he held until the club was sold to an American consortium in 2014.

The Chiostro della Cisterna in Monghidoro
The Chiostro della Cisterna in Monghidoro
Travel tip:

Occupying a ridge between two river valleys, Monghidoro has historically been a place of strategic importance going back to the time of the Ostrogoths and Lombards in the eighth and ninth centuries and remained so in the Second World War, when it was liberated from the Germans by Allied forces in October 1944. Because of the challenging nature of nearby terrain, it was also a stopping-off place for travellers seeking a passage between the Po Valley and central Italy. Notable sights include the Chiostro della Cisterna, an elegant cloister in the centre of the village that is all that remains of a 16th century Olivetan monastery. The cultural heart of the village, in the summer it hosts concerts, plays and exhibitions.  The elegant Piazza Armaciotto De Ramazzotti has a romantic atmosphere created by lanterns, which take the place of street lights.

Typical scenery in the Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi dell'Abbadessa regional park near Bologna
Typical scenery in the Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi
dell'Abbadessa regional park near Bologna
Travel tip:

The Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi dell'Abbadessa regional park, situated just outside the city of Bologna to the southeast, is an area of striking natural beauty characterised by a series of gypsum outcrops creating a landscape of cliffs, caves, rocky hillsides, enclosed basins, chalky ridges and hidden valleys interspersed with rich greenery.  The area has been subjected to intensive mining over the centuries but all activity ceased in the 1970s and the area is now popular with walkers and caving enthusiasts.