The first edition of the Sanremo Music Festival was held in 1951 with the idea to revive the post-war city. Nowadays, it is not only the most important music event in Italy, but also the longest-running annual TV music competition in the world and the forerunner of the Eurovision Song Contest. What makes it different from Eurovision is perhaps its cultural value: while many Eurovision winners are soon forgotten, winners of the Festival di Sanremo are loved by generations of Italians.
For an Italian artist, performing with Sanremo Orchestra is the greatest honour. The stakes are high, and so are the expectations, dreams and ambitions, which is why the history of Sanremo is full of scandals. In 1967, 28-year-old singer-songwriter Luigi Tenco committed suicide following the elimination of his song after the semi-finals. In 2020, rock singer Morgan changed the words of the song he was duetting with another singer, Bugo, in the middle of their performance. The new lyrics criticised Bugo for his lack of talent, which made him storm off stage in anger.
Fans of the Festival di Sanremo are as madly passionate as the artists themselves. In 2019, they came up with a game, FantaSanremo, which makes watching the festival even more exciting. Players create their “dream teams” of competing artists on the website and get points if their chosen musicians do certain things on stage, such as jump, say “Papalina” or high-five the presenter. Some artists play along. Others have no idea what is going on and are confused about their colleagues’ bizarre behaviour.
For young musicians, the Sanremo Music Festival is a make-it-or-break-it moment. It has launched the careers of Toto Cutugno, Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini, Mahmood, and many other international stars. The public’s taste is unpredictable, and anyone has a chance at stardom. In 2021, Måneskin won the competition over 25 other contestants. This is how the band got the right to represent Italy at Eurovision. The rest is history: Måneskin is now the hottest musical act on the planet.