The post mortem discussions on Italian tv of that quintessence of Italian glitz, kitch and sometimes real genius, the Sanremo song contest, are still dragging on a week after the last limelight has cooled down. Begun in 1951 by the ligurian seaside resort as a publicity venture and a way to drag the town out of the postwar depression the festival started out with just three singers including the great Nilla Pizza whose song ‘grazie dei fiori’ won and remains still etched in the heart of many Italians. (My own favourite Pizzi favourite is ‘vola colomba bianca vola ‘ which won the 1952 competition.)
The biggest hit of the seventy year old festival and its one truly international success was Domenico Modugno’s ‘nel blu dipinto di blu’ aka ‘volare’ of 1958.
Originally, the competition winner was the song writer and each song was sung by two separate singers. Now, however, it’s firmly based on the singer or group. This year I Stadio won with ‘un giorno mi dirai’, a song which is an indirect homage to the great song writer Lucio Dalla who died in 2012, and for whom I Stadio were the backing group.
Italians either love or loath Sanremo and foreign viewers will hold the same polarised views. Divided into separate categories for established and for new artists Sanremo also has a celebrity spot, this year crowned by Elton John and Laura Pausini. The real coup d’eclat this year, however, was the appearance of the highly listenable and acclaimed classical musician, Ezio Bosso. Regrettably suffering from SLA, an extreme form of multiple sclerosis, since 2011, Bosso is making a presence in London this week since his music forms part of a triple ballet bill with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden which we’ll be attending this evening. The ballet is called The golden hour’, originally written for the San Francisco ballet, with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon.
Ezio Bosso made a heart-melting impression both at Sanremo’s Ariston theatre where the contest has been held since 1977 and in the homes of the eleven million guests glued to their sets during the five days of the festival.
Unfortunately, the emphasis was on Bosso’s semi-physical-incoherence as a speaker because of SLA contrasted with his dexterity on the keyboard when playing his enchanted piece ‘following a bird’. What wasn’t mentioned because of the festival’s characteristic dumbing down to the audience is that Bosso is also a classical composer of four operas, four symphonies and is a conductor with such soloists as Brunello and Krylov and orchestras like the London symphony. Indeed, Bosso’s mentor was none other than the great Abbado himself.
‘The greatest thing about music is that it brings us all together.’
Ezio Bosso certainly did that at Sanremo, bringing as one the festival’s lovers and loathers as never before – we will be truly privileged to hear him tonight at one of the world’s greatest theatres, London’s Royal Opera House.