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Gianni Morandi, Co-Host of Sanremo 2023, Discusses His Endless Passion for the Festival

todayFebruary 8, 2023

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Gianni Morandi’s love for Sanremo shines through when he tells anecdotes from the past or shares reflections on the importance the festival has regained over the last few editions. That love became a real thing for the first time in 1972 with his debut at Sanremo as a contestant. That started a tight connection that is about to renew itself once again, after 51 years.


In between, everything changed: music, the festival itself, society. Sanremo did not always manage to portray it all accurately, as reflected in declining television ratings from 2000 to 2018— but the last few editions reversed the trend.

In this context of rediscovered artistic relevancy and sociocultural implications, Morandi will hit the stage of the Ariston Theatre once again to flank Amadeus as co-host. Billboard Italy spoke with him right before the start of the festival.

You have participated in many editions of Sanremo in several different roles. The festival itself is different now. Amadeus’ touch is effective, starting from the selection of artists. How are you preparing for this new edition?

I’ve seen every single edition of Sanremo since 1958, when Domenico Modugno sang “Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu.” To me, Sanremo is a fantastic opportunity, a great stage. I like the fact that I became such a frequent presence here. Amadeus added something, for sure. He has a great knowledge of music and he’s also an innovator; he really opened the doors to new music trends. He’s a forward-looking kind of guy. The results of the last three editions prove it. What makes Sanremo great is the songs that stay — that people don’t forget and keep on singing. And in the last three years, the hits were many. Starting from Måneskin, who became a global success. They are extraordinary on their own, but they started from Sanremo. Amadeus greatly improved the festival. Now it’s also followed by a younger audience.

It’s also more in line with contemporary trends of Italian music, and it promotes artists that are not necessarily known by everyone. How do you see today’s music scene? Did you ever get to know an artist better because of Sanremo?

Well, yes. Take La Rappresentante di Lista, Coma Cose, Colapesce and Dimartino, Rkomi: They were probably popular enough before, but Sanremo gave them the extra boost, and now they are powerhouses. Those times when Sanremo was not so influential, I used to think: “It’s a shame that we don’t value this opportunity of visibility for Italian music in the world.” Because the festival is followed internationally — ask those artists who reached international recognition thanks to it. Like Eros Ramazzotti. He participated in Sanremo and became a global star. Same thing for Laura Pausini or Andrea Bocelli. And so many songs of Sanremo were reinterpreted by great international artists, even Elvis did that [“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” was his rendition of “Io Che Non Vivo Senza Te”]. So I’m happy that the festival went back to reflecting the trends of Italian music. And nobody turns up their nose anymore. This year, the lineup is full of big names but also young artists — Amadeus encourages them a lot.

Sanremo saw you as a contestant, then as a host, then as a contestant again. Your last participation was just last year, and now you’re hosting the event. How did this transition happen?

I’ve always had a great feeling with Amadeus. We hosted a New Year’s Eve celebration together, back in 2020. We should have done it in Terni, but we ended up doing it in Rome in an empty studio where we stayed for five or six hours. He told me that he wanted me as a co-host last year, too. But then he saw that I submitted the song Jovanotti had written for me. So he didn’t expect me to participate as a contestant. This year, he just fulfilled a wish he expressed two years ago.

So much of your life and many of your hits are bound to Sanremo. What are some special memories?

I remember going to Sanremo to see it up close when I was 16 or 17. I was already singing with a band from Bologna, but I hadn’t even released my first record back then. A friend and I decided to go see how that dream-like city was, since Domenico Modugno’s performance in 1958 had moved me deeply. It was not even the period of the festival when we went. Then I always followed it. In the golden years of Sanremo, I participated in several editions of Canzonissima, another very important TV event of that time. The program used to start in September and end on Jan. 6, so going directly to Sanremo after that seemed a bit too much to me. But I had great occasions. Franco Migliacci had written “Che Sarà,” but Ricchi e Poveri ended up singing it instead of me. Same thing with “La Prima Cosa Bella.” When I finally approached Sanremo, it was probably not my best moment, nor with the best song. I participated with “Vado a Lavorare” (“I’m Going to Work”]. I received a telegram [that said]: “So you’re finally going to work! It was time,” signed by [popular comedians] Cochi and Renato. I never understood whether it was a joke or a serious call.

Knowing them, it could have been both. But besides the songs, there’s the competition, which also paves the way to an international opportunity such as Eurovision. How much is that perceived by the artists? And what feelings do they share during that week?

Over those days you develop relations and see people you haven’t met for a long time. I think there is some sort of solidarity among the artists, even if the competition is still there. But they share a lot of things, and no one gets mad if they lose. If an artist hits that stage and sings a good song, the audience will notice it, regardless of the final ranking. Take Tananai, for example: He ranked last in 2022, but then he had a big success [with “Sesso Occasionale” (“Casual Sex”), which has 37 million streams on Spotify]. The audience knows how to pay you back.

What do you wish for this edition of Sanremo?

I hope to see at least 15 or 20 hit songs. That’s the success of Sanremo: when songs last for decades. Eros Ramazzotti’s “Una Storia Importante” (“An Important Story”) is almost 40 years old now. Amadeus selected a great lineup this year. There’s a bit of everything, even big comebacks such as Anna Oxa and Cugini di Campagna, but also new talents such as Olly, gIANMARIA, Madame and so many others who represent today’s music. Sanremo is shining again. It started with Claudio Baglioni [who was Sanremo’s artistic director in 2018 and 2019], but Amadeus brought it to the next level.

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Amadeus Shares Secrets Behind Three Years of Directing Sanremo Music Festival

Even at 9:30 a.m., Amadeus’ voice still sparkles with life. “He only drinks chamomile, while I order a hundred cups of coffee,” his publicist says. “I don’t know how he holds up.” Related Gianni Morandi, Co-Host of Sanremo 2023, Discusses His Endless Passion for the Festival 02/08/2023 This year marks Amadeus’ fourth as main host and artistic director of the Sanremo Music Festival. Italian broadcaster Rai already confirmed him for 2024, […]

todayFebruary 8, 2023

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