Showing posts with label Laura Pausini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laura Pausini. 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:


25 January 2019

Noemi - singer-songwriter

Debut album topped Italian charts

Noemi - born Veronica Scopelliti in Rome - found fame after appearing on the Italian version of X-Factor
Noemi - born Veronica Scopelliti in Rome - found fame
after appearing on the Italian version of X-Factor
The singer-songwriter Noemi - real name Veronica Scopelliti - was born on Rome on this day in 1982. 

Noemi’s first album, Sulla Mia Pelle, released in 2009, sold more than 140,000 copies, topping the Italian album charts.

It followed her appearance in the second series of the Italian version of The X-Factor, the television talent show that was launched in the United Kingdom in 2004.

Although she did not win the competition, Noemi proved to be the most popular singer, finishing fifth overall.  Soon afterwards, she landed her first recording contract, with Sony Music, and released a single, Briciole, which reached number two in the Italian singles chart.

Heavily influenced by soul music, Noemi established immediately the style that has seen her nicknamed the ‘lioness of Italian pop’.

The cover of Noemi's debut EP, which sold more than 50,000 copies
The cover of Noemi's debut EP, which
sold more than 50,000 copies
The elder of two daughters of Armando and Stefania Scopelliti, Noemi - Veronica as she was then - had early experience of appearing in the spotlight - at 19 months she was chosen to model nappies in a TV commercial for Pampers.

She inherited her love for music from her father, who played guitar in a group, and began learning the piano at seven and the guitar at 11, soon writing her own pieces. She attended the De Merode Institute of the Collegio San Giuseppe, a Catholic school on Piazza di Spagna in the heart of Rome, and from there progressed to a degree in Drama, Arts, Music and Entertainment at the Università di Roma Tre - Rome’s third university.

Accompanying herself on guitar or at the piano, she began to appear at venues in Rome from the age of 21 onwards, even before she completed her studies, before successfully auditioning for X-Factor in 2008.

Soon after Briciole was released in April 2009, Sony Music produced her first EP, entitled simply Noemi, which sold more than 50,000 copies. She launched a promotional tour, which included an appearance at the concert Amiche per l'Abruzzo, organised by the top-selling Italian star Laura Pausini at the San Siro stadium in Milan to raise funds for victims of the Abruzzo earthquake, and at the Concerto per Viareggio organised by the popular male singer Zucchero to help the victims of a train derailment and explosion that killed 32 people in the seaside town in June, 2009.

Noemi's career has been encouraged by Laura Pausini, one of Italy's top stars
Noemi's career has been encouraged by
Laura Pausini, one of Italy's top stars
Her first album, Sulla mia pelle, was released in October of that year. A single from the album, L'amore si odia - a duet with Fiorella Mannoia - obtained a platinum disc.

Noemi has subsequently released four more studio albums - RossoNoemi, Made in London, Cuore d’artista and La luna - a live album RossoLive, and 15 singles, five of which sold more than 50,000 copies each.

She has appeared in five editions of the Sanremo Music Festival, between 2010 and 2018, finishing third once and fourth twice. Per tutta la vita, which she sang on her Sanremo debut, was her second number one single, following on from L’amore si odia.  Her total record sales add up to more than 750,000.

In 2013, together with Raffaella Carrà , Piero Pelù and Riccardo Cocciante, Noemi was hired as a coach of the first edition of The Voice of Italy, broadcast on Rai Due.

Inspired by singers such as Aretha Franklin, Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Erykah Badu and James Brown, Noemi is comfortable with soul, blues. R&B and rock, her voice characterised by a distinctively scratchy and deeply powerful sound.

Pausini, Umberto Tozzi and Vasco Rossi, all important figures in the Italian music industry, are among her admirers.

In 2018, Noemi married Gabriele Greco, the bassist and double bass player in her band, in Rome in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina, following a 10-year romance.

The Collegio San Giuseppe is just off Rome's famous Piazza di Spagna
The Collegio San Giuseppe is just off
Rome's famous Piazza di Spagna
Travel tip:

The Collegio San Giuseppe-Istituto de Mérode is a Catholic school of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, located at via San Sebastianello 1, at the corner of Piazza di Spagna, in the rione Campo Marzio.  The Brothers of the Christian Schools was founded by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle in the 17th century. The Collegio San Giuseppe was founded in 1850 in Palazzo Poli at the Trevi Fountain. It was relocated to its current location in 1885. In addition to Noemi, its alumni include the journalist Pietro Calabrese and Giovanni Malagò, the current president of the Italian National Olympic Committee.

The Basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina can be found  a short distance from the Palazzo Montecitorio
The Basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina can be found
a short distance from the Palazzo Montecitorio 
Travel tip:

The Minor Basilica of St. Lawrence in Lucina, where Noemi was married, is located in Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina in the Rione Colonna, not far from the Palazzo Montecitorio - the seat of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian parliament - and Via del Corso.  Originally built in the fourth century, the church was reconstructed in the 12th century and again in the 17th, when the lateral isles were replaced by Baroque chapels, among them one designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for the Portuguese doctor Gabriele Fonseca, who was physician to Pope Innocent X (1644-55). Guido Reni's Christ on the Cross is visible above the high altar.  Among those interred in the basilica are the opera composer Bernardo Pasquini and the French Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin, who spent most of his working life in Rome.

More reading:

How Laura Pausini became one of Italy's all-time biggest female stars

Still rocking at 63 - the enduring appeal of Zucchero

The X-Factor victory that launched Marco Mengoni

Also on this day:

1348: The Friuli Earthquake

1755: The birth of the physician Paolo Mascagni

1866: The birth of operatic baritone Antonio Scotti


27 September 2017

Jovanotti - musician

Former rapper important figure in Italian pop culture

Jovanotti is now one of Italy's most popular performers, attracting sell-out crowds
Jovanotti is now one of Italy's most popular
performers, attracting sell-out crowds
The singer-songwriter Lorenzo Cherubini – better known as Jovanotti – was born on this day in 1966 in Rome.

Famous in his early days as Italy’s first rap star, Jovanotti has evolved into one of Italian pop music’s most significant figures, his work progressing from hip hop to funk and introducing ska and other strands of world music to Italian audiences, his increasingly sophisticated compositions even showing classical influences.

He has come to match Ligabue in terms of the ability to attract massive audiences, while his international record sales in the mid-90s were on a par with Eros Ramazzotti and Laura Pausini.  Since his recording debut in 1988 he has sold more than seven million albums.

Although born in Rome, Cherubini came from a Tuscan family and spent much of his childhood and adolescence in Cortona in the province of Arezzo, where he now has a home.

He began to work as a DJ at venues in and around Cortona, mainly playing dance music and hip hop, which at the time was scarcely known in Italy. After finishing high school he went back to Rome because he felt he had a better chance of launching a musical career via the capital’s club scene.  

Jovanotti started out as a DJ before turning to hip hop and rap
Jovanotti started out as a DJ before
turning to hip hop and rap
Jovanotti became his stage name not quite by design.  He had intended to call himself Joe Vanotti – the name meant to sound like giovanotti, the Italian word for “young people” – but the promotional poster for one of his early club bookings as a deejay incorrectly billed him as Jovanotti and the name stuck.

His success in Rome earned him bookings further afield, particularly at holiday resorts, and it was on one such gig that he met the entrepreneur record producer Claudio Ceccheto, who would give him national exposure via his radio station, Radio Deejay.

Jovanotti’s early work was raw and basic. He fashioned himself as a Paninaro – a kind of Italian version of the English mods of the 1960s, who favoured Vespa and Lambretta scooters and had signature clothes, in particular Timberland boots, Levi jeans and American military flying jackets.

Yet he became an icon for Italian youth. Songs such as Sei come la mia moto – roughly translated: “You’re like my Lambretta/Vespa” – and Gimme Five became youth anthems, the first of many that Italian teenagers, who love to memorise the lyrics of their favourite tracks and sing them together, would turn into pop classics. Fans refer to him often as simply Jova.

His 1988 debut album, Jovanotti for President, was panned by the critics, yet sold more than 400,000 copies. His second, La Mia Moto, topped 600,000.  His catalogue now stands at 13 studio albums, four live albums, six compilations, a remix album and four video albums, plus 82 singles.

Jovanotti songs became anthems for Italian youth
Jovanotti songs became anthems
for Italian youth
The last seven of his studio albums have gone to number one in the Italian music charts and songs such as A te, L’Ombelico del Mondo, Bella, Fango, Piove, Penso Positivo and Per Te – which he wrote for his newborn daughter, Teresa, in 1998 – have entered what writers have dubbed The Great Italian Songbook.

Initially loved for the fact that his songs tended not to carry any political or ideological messages, from the 1990s onwards, Jovanotti became much more political. As a committed pacifist, he frequently worked with organizations such as Make Poverty History and Amnesty International, and he has contributed to events dedicated to debt relief, forming a friendship with the similarly minded U2 front man Bono.

He declared his support for the Partito Democratico della Sinistra (the Democratic Party of the Left), which formed from a split in the Italian Communist Party, in the 1992 general election.

In September 2008, 10 years after the birth of their daughter,  Jovanotti married his long-term partner Francesca Valiani at Cortona, in the Church of Santa Maria Nuova.

The Palazzo Comune in Cortona
The Palazzo Comune in Cortona
Travel tip:

Cortona is a charming small city in the Valdichiana, or Chiana Valley, in the province of Arezzo in southern Tuscany, about 120km (75 miles) southeast of Florence. The city, enclosed by stone walls dating back to Etruscan and Roman times, sits on the top of a hill about 600m (2000ft) above sea level, offering spectacular views.  It is characterised by steep, narrow streets – indeed the main street, Via Nazionale, is the only street in the city with no gradient. Among the main sights is the domed church of Santa Maria Nuova, designed by Giorgio Vasari.

The Best Company label favoured by Paninari
The Best Company label favoured by Paninari
Travel tip:

The Paninaro youth culture of the 1980s began in Milan among a group of teenagers who fashioned an identity for themselves around certain clothing brands. They tended to meet in particular cafes and fast food outlets in central Milan, in particular Al Panino in Via Agnello, a stone’s throw from the Duomo. As befits the fashion capital of Italy, they favoured expensive labels and it was not unusual to see Paninari dressed in Armani jeans, although the real must-haves in addition to Timberland boots were brightly coloured Best Company sweatshirts and Alpha Industries or Schott flying jackets.

16 May 2016

Laura Pausini - singer-songwriter

Grammy Award-winner has sold more than 70 million records

Photo of Laura Pausini
Laura Pausini
One of Italy's best-selling recording artists of all time, pop singer-songwriter Laura Pausini celebrates her 42nd birthday today. The first Italian female performer to win a Grammy Award, she was born on this day in 1974 in Solarolo, in the province of Ravenna.

Pausini's records have sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, more than both Zucchero and Eros Ramazzotti, two giants of Italian popular music.  The figure is all the more remarkable for the fact that Pausini has only scratched the surface of the English-language market, which is by far the most lucrative.

She records mainly in Italian but has also enjoyed considerable success with recordings in Spanish and, more recently, in Catalan. She is the first non-Spanish artist to sell more than a million copies of a single album in Spain.

Pausini's background and upbringing always made it likely she would pursue a career in the music industry.

Her father, Fabrizio, is a pianist who played as a session musician for Abba's Anni-Frid Lyngstad and with a group from which was formed the best-selling Italian band Pooh. Later in his career, after he had established himself as a piano bar artist, he encouraged Laura to sing.  Her first live performance, in front of an audience, came when she sang with her father in a restaurant in Bologna.

More performances followed and after she had taken part in a number of singing competitions her talent came to the attention of an Italian producer, Angelo Valsiglio, who asked her to sing a song that would in time become a Pausini classic.

That song, La Solitudine, was released as a single in February 1993. With it, Pausini won the 43rd Sanremo Music Festival and reached number one in the Italian singles chart.  It also reached top spot in Belgium and charted at number two in the Netherlands.

La Solitudine featured on her debut album, Laura Pausini, released later in 1993.  She has since record 11 more studio albums, the latest of which, Simile, was released in 2015, plus a number of compilations, live recordings and collaborations with other artists. Her last five studio albums have reached number one in the Italian album charts.

Pausini has also had five number one singles in Italy, including Limpido, in 2013, on which she collaborated with the Australian superstar, Kylie Minogue.

Photo of Laura Pausini
Laura Pausini during her 2010 world tour to
promote her album Inedito
A singer with a powerful mezzo-soprano voice, Laura Pausini has been likened by music critics to Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand and Mariah Carey.  Part of her popularity is down to the lyrics of her songs, which have often expressed sentiments with which fans have been able to identify.

The winner of one regular Grammy Award and three Latin Grammy Awards among numerous honours, Pausini was made a Commander Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2006.

She has a three-year-old daughter, Paola, with her partner, the guitarist, composer and music producer, Paolo Carta.

Travel tip:

Solarolo, in Emilia-Romagna, a little under 40 kilometres from Ravenna and about halfway between Bologna and Rimini, is an elegant town of some 4,500 inhabitants, notable for being on the front line of battles between German troops and the British 8th Army towards the end of the Second World War, due to its strategic location close to the River Senio.  Its main sights include the Santuario della Madonna della Salute.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Travel tip:

Bologna, where Pausini made her performing debut, appropriately in a restaurant, is known as the gastronomic capital of Italy, the city that invented tortellini and mortadella and gave the world the meat sauce (ragù) known as bolognese, which is authentically served with tagliatelle rather than spaghetti.

(Photos of Laura Pausini by and Valentini17 CC BY-SA 3.0)

(Tagliatelle photo by D Sharon Pruitt CC BY-SA 2.0)

More reading:

Ligabue - record-breaking rock star

Little Tony - 60s pop star inspired by Little Richard

Also on this day:

1915: The birth of film director Mario Monicelli

1945: The birth of businessman and former Inter chairman Massimo Moratti