The golden years of Sanremo – Vintage Italian Music Festival

 

Sanremo Poster

Sanremo Poster

 

The Sanremo Music Festival is the most famous Italian music festival.  The three day contest is held annually in the beautiful city of Sanremo on coast of Liguria, close to the French city of Nice.  Known as the “city of flowers,” Sanremo hosts many important events such as car races, the European Poker Tour and the Milan-Sanremo bicycle race. No matter how important these events might be, when an Italian hears the name Sanremo, the first thing that comes to mind is the music festival. Ever since the first edition in 1951, the festival has been a major Italian media event and symbol of Italian popular culture.

 

The famous Italian singer Mina on the Sanremo stage in 1960

The famous Italian singer Mina on the Sanremo stage in 1960

 

The Sanremo festival celebrates not only Italian music, but also Italian culture in general since many important celebrities, comedians and actors have participated in the event. Originally held  in the Sanremo Casino, but later moved to the famous Ariston Theatre, he show has always aired live to an international audience.  The first four editions were broadcast live on the RAI1 radio station, but in 1955 the show made the switch to TV and ever since then it has been shown on the RAI1 TV channel.Over time it has also become a cornerstone of Italian television history.

 

Sanremo Casinò

Sanremo Casinò

 

Ariston Theatre | Sanremo

Ariston Theatre | Sanremo

 

Even though there have been a lot of changes in the contest, the main idea is that singers present new original songs that have never been performed before. In the past, the festival was a great opportunity for Italians not only to listen to good music, but also to see their idols perform live. A chance that, at the time, they didn’t get very often.

Nilla Pizzi performance

Nilla Pizzi performance

 

Even though she might not want to admit it, I’m pretty sure my grandmother still waits impatiently for the three days of the festival to arrive so that she can remember the good times of the past.  Just three singers took part in the first Sanremo contest of 1951: Duo Fasano, Achille Togliani and Nilla Pizza, who was the first winner of the festival. Today more than fifteen singers compete in two categories – Campioni [Champions] and Giovani [Youth]. During the 63 year history of event, all of the most important Italian singers have performed at the Sanremo Festival, such as Adriano Celentano, Iva Zanicchi, Gianni Morandi, Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini, and Andrea Bocelli.  Even international artists, including Louis Armstrong and Stevie Wonder, have a tradition of participating in the show.

 

 

Tony Renis performs at Sanremo in 1962 with Orchestra Leader Gianni Ferrio in the foreground

Tony Renis performs at Sanremo in 1962 with Orchestra Leader Gianni Ferrio in the foreground

Lucio Battisti performs at Sanremo 1969

Lucio Battisti performs at Sanremo 1969

 

As with any big public event that captures the public’s attention through its heavy media presence, every year the Sanremo Music Festival has included controversies and scandals. During the golden years of the competition the winner would become a star and gain significant fame. It seems that things have changed since then and music is no longer the only focus of the show.  Special guests and celebrity presenters have become increasingly important.  Indeed, by the end of the three days, it’s not the best performance that is being discussed by Italians, but the best and, of course, worse dressed celebrities.

 

An LP of Orietta Berti's performance at Sanremo 1966

An LP of Orietta Berti’s performance at Sanremo 1966

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