Showing posts with label Song. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Song. 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:


8 August 2018

Leo Chiosso – songwriter

Writer of lyrics and scripts was inspired by crime fiction

Leo Chiosso's hit Love in Portofino was the inspiration for an album by Andrea Bocelli
Leo Chiosso's hit Love in Portofino was the
inspiration for an album by Andrea Bocelli
Prolific songwriter Leo Chiosso was born on this day in 1920 in Chieri, a town to the south of Turin in Piedmont.

He became well known for the songs he wrote in partnership with Fred Buscaglione, a singer and musician, but Chiosso also wrote many scripts for television and cinema.

Chiosso met Buscaglione in 1938 in the nightclubs of Turin, where Buscaglione was working as a jazz singer. The formed a songwriting duo that went on to produce more than 40 songs.

However, their friendship was interrupted by the Second World War.  Chiosso was taken prisoner and deported to Poland, where he became friends with the writer Giovanni Guareschi, while Buscaglione was sent to a US internment camp in Sardinia.

It was only when Chiosso heard Buscaglione playing in a musical broadcast by the allied radio station in Cagliari that he knew his friend was still alive.

They were reunited in Turin after the war and continued to write songs together. Chiosso was an avid reader of American crime fiction, which inspired his lyrics and also suited Buscaglione’s amiable gangster image.

Chiosso's songwriting partner Fred Buscaglione used to favour an 'American gangster' look
Chiosso's songwriting partner Fred Buscaglione
used to favour an 'American gangster' look
Their first hit was Che bambola in 1956, which turned humorous tough guy Buscaglione into a celebrity.

A subsequent hit was Love in Portofino, recently recorded by Andrea Bocelli and also the inspiration for one of his albums.

The last time the pair worked together was on the 1960 film Noi duri, which featured Buscaglione and the famous Italian comic actor, Totò. Chiosso wrote both the story and the script for the film as well as the lyrics for the songs. But while they were making the film, Buscaglione was killed in a car crash.

Chiosso’s career continued to be successful without his friend and he wrote the lyrics for many famous songs. He was involved with the making of the popular television music show, Canzonissima and he wrote stories and scripts for cinema. He wrote his last song in 2003, Quando piove sulla spiaggia - When it rains on the beach.

After having lived for more than 30 years in Rome, Chiosso returned to his home town in the province of Turin.

Chiosso died in Chieri in 2006 at the age of 86. After his death, Mondadori published a book he had been working on towards the end of his life, which was entitled simply, Fred Buscaglione.

In 2008 the Leo Chiosso Festival della Canzone was initiated.

Chieri's Duomo, the church of Santa Maria della Scala
Chieri's Duomo, the church of Santa Maria della Scala
Travel tip:

Chieri, where Leo Chiosso was born and died, is a small town about 11km (7 miles) southeast of Turin. One of the main sights is the Gothic-style Duomo built in 1037 and reconstructed in 1405, which is the largest in Piedmont and has a 13th century octagonal Baptistery. In 2002 Chieri experienced Italy’s worst civilian gun massacre when an unemployed gun enthusiast with a history of mental illness killed seven people and then shot himself in Via Parini in the town.

Piazza Castello is at the heart of 'royal' Turin
Piazza Castello is at the heart of 'royal' Turin
Travel tip:

Turin, the capital city of the region of Piedmont, has some fine architecture that illustrates its rich history as the home of the Savoy kings of Italy. The beautiful square Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of ‘royal’ Turin.

More reading:

How Andrea Bocelli conquered the worlds of opera and pop

The enduring talent of Adriano Celentano

Domenico Modugno - writer of the iconic hit Volare

Also on this day:

1173: Work begins on what would become the Leaning Tower of Pisa

1988: The birth of NBA basketball player Danilo Gallinari


16 February 2018

Edda Dell’Orso – vocalist

Soprano was wordless voice of Morricone soundtracks

Dell'Orso was 29 when she began her long association with Ennio Morricone
Dell'Orso was 29 when she began her long
association with Ennio Morricone
The singer Edda Dell’Orso, best known for the extraordinary range of wordless vocals that have featured in many of composer Ennio Morricone’s brilliant film soundtracks from the 1960s onwards, was born on this day in 1935 in Genoa.

Her collaboration with Morricone began when he was contracted in 1964 to provide the musical score for A Fistful of Dollars, the first of Sergio Leone’s so-called spaghetti western trilogy that was to make Clint Eastwood an international star.

Leone’s producers could only offer Morricone a small budget, which meant his access to a full orchestra was limited, forcing him to improvise and create sound effects in different ways. One idea he had was to replace instruments with human voices, which is where Dell’Orso, a distinctive soprano, came into her own.

Born Edda Sabatini, she had pursued her musical interests with the support of her father who, while not musical himself, could see that she had potential as a pianist.

The quality of her voice became clear when she enrolled at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, the renowned music school in Rome, where she graduated in 1956 in singing and piano and met her future husband, Giacomo.

Edda Dell'Orso has enjoyed a long career in the Italian cinema
Edda Dell'Orso has enjoyed a long career
in the Italian cinema
At the time, there was work to be had in Rome’s recording studios, providing backing vocals for TV and film productions, as well as recording artists.  Working for the composer Franco Potenza, Dell’Orso once performed with Frank Sinatra during a visit to Rome by the American singer, whose family originated in Sicily.

In the early 1960s, she joined I Cantori Moderni (The Modern Choristers), a choral group run by the composer Alessandro Alessandroni, a lifelong friend of Morricone and the man to whom he turned when he needed to be imaginative in his soundtrack for Leone.

It was Alessandroni’s musicians who provided the whistling and the twanging guitar in the scores for all of the Dollars trilogy. On hearing Dell’Orso, the group’s solo soprano, Morricone realised, he said later, that he had "an extraordinary voice at my disposal".

As Dell’Orso recalled in a recent interview, it was hardly glamorous work.  Rather than turning up on set and rubbing shoulders with the stars, she would report to the studio, and after one quick read of the musical score be required to either sing with the orchestra in the hall or step into a booth, wearing headphones, to sing along with a recording.

Often, she would be at the studio all day, recording several pieces for different composers of different soundtracks. Although she would keep notes in her diary of which film and which maestro she had performed for, there were so many that she found it difficult to keep track.  Moreover, the singers had no way of knowing if a piece would be used and sometimes did not find out until a movie was released.

Listen to Dell'Orso's voice on the Ecstasy of Gold by Ennio Morricone

Nonetheless, it was the making of her.  Capable of infusing her voice with high drama, playful humour or haunting poignancy, she was called upon time and again, not only by Morricone but many other composers, including Bruno Nicolai, Piero Piccioni, Luis Bacalov and Roberto Pregadio.

In all, she worked on the soundtracks of around 60 films, for which Morricone was the lead composer in more than 30, from the Dollars trilogy to, in more recent times, Giuseppe Tornatore’s 2013 romantic mystery La migliore offerta (The Best Offer), which was entitled Deception when released in the UK.

Despite rarely being asked to sing words, many albums of Dell’Orso’s music have been released and even in her 80s she is still performing.  She lives in Rome with Giacomo, to whom she has been married for 57 years.

The facade of the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa
The facade of the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa
Travel tip:

Genoa, Dell’Orso’s home city, is the most westerly port city in the Italian mainland, situated just 177km (110 miles) from the French border.  Clinging to the coastline between the Mediterranean and the sharply rising northwestern Apennines, its metropolitan area stretches for about 30km (19 miles) from east to west, although the centre is relatively compact, comprising the centro storico (historic centre) and the Porto Antico.  Worth visiting are the Palazzo Ducale, on Piazza Matteotti, and the 12th century Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, handsomely fashioned from black granite and white marble.

The entrance to the Cinecittà complex in Rome
Travel tip:

The heart of the Italian film industry is Cinecittà, the studio complex on Via Tuscolana, about 10km (6 miles) southeast of the centre of Rome.  Built in the Fascist era as Benito Mussolini tried to revive the at-the-time flagging Italian movie business, it is the largest studio complex in Europe.  In the 1950s, nowhere outside Hollywood produced more movies. Scenes from Roman Holiday, Beat the Devil, The Barefoot Contessa and Ben-Hur were all shot there during the 1950s, and the studios became closely associated with the director Federico Fellini.  More recently, the complex has provided sets representing the interiors of both St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel for a 2016 TV series, The Young Pope.

More reading:

(Picture credits: Ducal Palace at Genoa by Andrzej Otrębski; Cinecittà Studios by Emanuela Meme Giudici; via Wikimedia Commons)