Showing posts with label Gigliola Cinquetti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gigliola Cinquetti. 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:


23 August 2018

Pino Presti – bass player and composer

Talented musician could sing, play guitar, compose and conduct

Pino Presti has been one of the Italian music scene's most important figures since the 1960s
Pino Presti has been one of the Italian music scene's
most important figures since the 1960s
Pino Presti, one of the most important personalities in the Italian music business, was born Giuseppe Prestipino Giarritta on this day in 1943 in Milan.

He is a bass guitar player, arranger, composer, conductor and record producer and his work ranges between the different music genres of pop, jazz, funk, latin and dance.

His father, Arturo Prestipino Giarritta, was a well-known violinist and Presti began studying piano and music theory at the age of six.

He taught himself to play the bass guitar and began playing professionally at the age of 17, having developed his own special technique using either the pick or thumb.

Presti was a pioneer of electric bass and was probably the first to play a Fender Jazz Bass in Italy.

His talent for playing the instrument led him to collaborate with the major Italian pop artists of the 1960s, including the famous singer, Mina, who is Italy's all-time top-selling female recording artist. Presti arranged and conducted 86 tracks and composed four songs for her, also sometimes backing her as a singer.

Presti enjoyed a long working relationship with the major Italian star, Mina
Presti enjoyed a long working relationship
with the major Italian star, Mina
Among the many other artists he worked with were Bobby Solo, Gigliola Cinquetti and Adriano Celentano

In 1976 he created and produced for Atlantic Records, the album, Ist Round, which was considered the first funk dance production and one of the most innovative albums of the 1970s in Italy.

In 1977 he signed a contract with RAI2 to be arranger, conductor and composer of original music for the famous TV show, Auditorio A, and he was responsible for conducting a big band of 56 notable musicians.

Presti also collaborated with some of the biggest names on the international music scene such as Shirley Bassey, Wilson Pickett, Stephane Grappelli and Maynard Ferguson.

In 2013 he produced the tribute album Shirley Bunnie-Foy, consisting of 17 tracks performed by jazz vocalist Shirley Bunnie-Foy during her 60-year career.

In 2014 he composed, co-produced and released under the pseudonym Mad of Jazz, the album Deep Colours and in 2016 he composed the music for the advertising campaign of Scavolini, an Italian kitchen and bathroom manufacturer.

Between 1967 and 1985 Presti trained in Shotokan karate under Japanese masters and obtained his 5th degree black belt in Rome in 1987.

Since 2004, he has lived in Nice in the South of France.

The Piccolo Teatro in Milan
The Piccolo Teatro in Milan
Travel tip:

Milan, where Presti was born and lived for many years, has a wealth of theatres with a long tradition of staging different entertainment. Teatro Litta next to Palazzo Litta in Corso Magenta is believed to be the oldest theatre in the city. Teatro Dal Verme in San Giovanni sul Muro opened in 1872 and the Piccolo Teatro in Via Rivoli opened in 1947. Milan’s most famous theatre, Teatro alla Scala, in Piazza della Scala, across the road from Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II,  was first inaugurated in 1778. The theatre has a fascinating museum that displays costumes and memorabilia from its long history. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and a few days in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30pm.

One side of the Sforza Castle in Milan
One side of the Sforza Castle in Milan
Travel tip

One of the other main sights in Milan is the impressive Sforza castle, Castello Sforzesco, built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. After Ludovico Sforza became Duke of Milan in 1494 he commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to fresco several rooms. The castle now houses some of the city’s museums and art galleries. For more information visit

More reading:

How Mina changed the rules for women in 1960s Italy

Adriano Celentano spans the ages of Italian pop music

Gigliola Cinquetti - Italy's first queen of Eurovision

Also on this day:

1945: The birth of 60s singing star Rita Pavone

1974: The death of pioneering psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli


20 December 2016

Gigliola Cinquetti - singer and TV presenter

Eurovision win at 16 launched successful career

Gigliola Cinquetti was only 16 when she won Eurovision in 1964
Gigliola Cinquetti was only 16
when she won Eurovision in 1964
Gigliola Cinquetti, who was the first Italian to win the Eurovision Song Contest, was born on this day in 1947 in Verona.

She took the prize in Copenhagen in 1964 with Non ho l'età (I'm Not Old Enough), with music composed by Nicola Salerno and lyrics by Mario Panzeri.

Just 16 years old at the time, she scored an overwhelming victory, gaining 49 points from the judges. The next best song among 16 contenders, which was the United Kingdom entry I Love the Little Things, sung by Matt Monro, polled just 17 points.

Non ho l'età became a big hit, selling more than four million copies and even spending 17 weeks in the UK singles chart, where songs in foreign languages did not traditionally do well. It had already won Italy's prestigious Sanremo Music Festival, which served as the qualifying competition for Eurovision at that time.

Italy had finished third on two occasions previously at Eurovision, which had been launched in 1956. Domenico Modugno, singing Nel blu, dipinto di blu (later renamed Volare) was third in 1958, as was Emilio Pericoli in 1963, singing Uno per tutte.

Watch Gigliola Cinquetti's performance at Eurovision 1964

None of the country's entries went so close until Cinquetti herself finished runner-up 10 years later with Sì, which was a creditable effort given that it was the 1974 contest, staged in Brighton, that introduced the world to ABBA, whose song Waterloo went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Abba, the Swedish pop phenomenon whose emergence at  Eurovision in 1974 denied Cinquetti a second win
Abba, the Swedish pop phenomenon whose emergence at
Eurovision in 1974 denied Cinquetti a second win
Encouraged by her success in the UK with No ho l'età, Cinquetti released an English version of Sì, entitled Go (Before You Break My Heart).  The move paid off when the single climbed to No 8 in the UK singles chart.

Sales suffered at home in Italy, however, because of the decision by state broadcaster RAI to ban the song from being played on TV and radio for a month out of fears that it would influence the upcoming referendum on the divorce law.  The electorate were being asked to vote 'sì' or 'no' on whether to repeal legislation passed three years earlier that lifted the ban on divorce and RAI were worried that the repetition of the word 'sì' in the song would subliminally influence the vote.

Cinquetti had been born into a wealthy family in Verona.  After attending art school, she began to study architecture and philosophy at university but her success in 1964 led her to concentrate more and more on her music career, in which she enjoyed considerable success.

She won Sanremo again in 1966, accompanied by Domenico Modugno in a duet, Dio come ti Amo - God how I love you - and had a series of hits in Italy before reinforced her fame outside Italy.

In the 1990s, Cinquetti's career took a different direction.  She co-hosted the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Rome, alongside Toto Cutugno, who had become Italy's second winner in Zagreb the year before, and performed so impressively she was encouraged to pursue an interest she had already expressed in becoming a television presenter.

Gigliola Cinquetti pictured with her husband, the journalist, writer and director Luciano Teodori
Gigliola Cinquetti pictured with her husband, the
journalist, writer and director Luciano Teodori
She subsequently revealed a talent for TV journalism and presented a number of current affairs programmes for RAI.  She was awarded the Premio Giulietta alla Donna alla Carriera in 2008 in recognition of her diverse career.

More recently, Cinquetti has revived her singing career, embarking on a number of concert tours and recording new material.  One year ago today she released 20:12, her first studio album for 20 years, which included a hit single, Teardrops in an ocean, and a cover of the Rolling Stones 1966 single, Lady Jane.

She has been married since 1979 to the journalist, writer and director Luciano Teodori.  They have two children, Costantino and Giovanni.

Travel tip:

Verona's famous Roman amphitheatre, the Arena, stages an annual Opera Festival, which came into being in 1913 when a local tenor, Giovanni Zenatello, suggested to Ottone Rovato, a theatre manager in the city, that the 100th anniversary of the birth of the composer Giuseppe Verdi be commemorated with an open-air performance of Aida within the setting of the Arena.  It was such a popular and successful production that the venue soon became an established fixture on the opera calendar with stars queuing up to appear there.

Terracina's Duomo in Piazza del Municipio
Terracina's Duomo in Piazza del Municipio
Travel tip:

Gigliola Cinquetta says she met the man who would become her husband, Luciano Teodori, on the beach at Terracina, on the Tyrrhenian coast between Rome and Naples.  A pleasant resort town notable for a long sweep of sandy beach, it also has an interesting historic centre notable for an 11th Doumo in Piazza del Municipio, built on the site of a Roman temple to Augustus. The cathedral has a broad 18-step staircase leading to an entrance sheltered by a vestibule supported by columns resting on recumbent lions, and a Gothic-Romanesque campanile featuring small columns that echo the design of the vestibule.

More reading:

How Sanremo helped launch the career of Italian superstar Eros Ramazotti

Sixties star Rita Pavone conquered America

How a girl from an intellectual background in Venice became pop sensation Patty Pravo

Also on this day:

1856: Death of Sicilian patriot Francesco Bentivegna

(Photo of Terracina Duomo by MM via Wikimedia Commons)