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Sanremo 2023: Best and Worst of the Italian Festival’s First Night

todayFebruary 9, 2023

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Sanremo 2023 started with an unprecedented honor. Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, appeared among the audience of the Ariston Theatre, the first time a president had ever appeared at the festival. Accompanied by his daughter Laura, he seemed visibly touched by actor Roberto Benigni’s monologue in tribute to the 75th anniversary of the Italian constitution.

The first night of the event was full of highlights – both great and questionable — from Chiara Ferragni’s debut as co-host, to Blanco’s angry reaction to a hearing problem, to Pooh’s excessively long medley. Then, of course, there were the performances of the first 14 contestants. Here is a recap of the memorable moments of the first night of Sanremo 2023.

The Best Moments

President Mattarella and Roberto Benigni Pay Homage to the Italian Constitution

Amadeus and Gianni Morandi (host and co-host of the show) saluted Mattarella. Accompanied by the orchestra, Morandi sang the Italian national anthem with the audience of the theatre.

Then Benigni joined them on stage. He celebrated the importance of the Sanremo Festival as a prime expression of Italian popular music, which is not always safeguarded by political institutions. Since Amilcare Rambaldi founded the event in 1951, Sanremo “has been holding a fundamental place in our society,” Benigni said.

“This edition is particularly special: We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of our constitution,” the actor went on. “You must be asking yourselves, ‘What’s the relationship between that and Sanremo?’ Well, they both celebrate freedom.” Benigni proceeded to quote Article 21 from the Italian constitution, his personal favorite, as it guarantees freedom of the press and expression of thought.

Mahmood and Blanco Sing “Brividi”

Mahmood and Blanco, winners of Sanremo 2022, attended the event as guest artists. After a memorable year — “Brividi” (“Shivers”) was Italy’s No. 1 song of the year, according to FIMI — they went back to where it all began, moving the audience with a touching performance. “It’s weird to come back a year later and feel the same emotions,” said Mahmood before leaving the stage. “This place is like home for me.”

The Best Competition Performances

Marco Mengoni arrived, sung impeccably, received well-deserved applause and left. Almost like in an old fashioned Sanremo. He handled the stage with the ease of someone who did not need to prove anything — he won in 2013 with “L’essenziale” (“The Essential Thing”) — and “Due Vite” (“Two Lives”) highlighted his great vocal versatility, ranging from almost rap-like verses to his unmistakable high notes in the chorus.

Coma_Cose stared into each other’s eyes and said that “farewell is not a possibility.” The duo, who are also a couple in real life, was about to break up after their huge success at last year’s festival, where they participated with “Fiamme negli Occhi” (“Flames in Your Eyes”), but that did not happen. Their performance of “L’Addio” (“The Goodbye”) was flawless. Elodie’s performance was among the most awaited. When she walked down the stairs in a total black look, she proved to be a real diva once again. On first listen, “Due” was maybe less memorable than her other singles, but her trademark smoky voice caught the audience’s attention from the first notes.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, pop act I Cugini di Campagna never participated in Sanremo — until this year, when they showed up with a great song, “Lettrera 22,” written by La Rappresentante di Lista, and silenced their haters’ comments.

The Flops

Pooh’s Long Medley

Roby Facchinetti, Dodi Battaglia and Red Canzian took full control of the stage of the Ariston Theatre and started a medley of their own classics that lasted 25 minutes. The nostalgia effect was guaranteed. But the living members (drummer Stefano D’Orazio died in 2020; a video of him singing was projected for a virtual duet on “Uomini Soli” [Lonely Men]) were not flawless, especially Facchinetti’s weird high notes and Battaglia’s playback-guitar shredding. Original member Riccardo Fogli joined them on stage and bassist Red Canzian tried to set the bar high, but it was not enough.

Salmo on the Cruise Ship

Cameras captured rapper Salmo next to a pool on the Costa Crociere cruise ship, which is anchored in front of Sanremo. While he does not need to prove his talent, he could have taken advantage of the opportunity to reach a new audience. Still, he sung a medley of his “Russel Crowe” and “90 Minuti,” surrounded by people dancing and drinking cocktails. He wore slippers and jumped into the pool at the end, still holding the microphone. It was too many rap clichés all at once.

Blanco’s Anger

The silliest moment came around midnight. Blanco hit the stage again to sing his new single “L’Isola delle Rose” (“The Island of Roses”), but he did not hear his own voice in the ear monitors. He lost his mind. He started kicking the roses that were placed as scenic design for his performance. Not the best behavior, but he revived the show with his punk attitude. At one point he stopped singing and just kept destroying the flowers. The audience did not appreciate it and started booing. Amadeus returned and said, “Come on, don’t we want to hear Salmo’s song?” General laughter. Then, Gianni Morandi was seen cleaning the stage with a broom. “Well, we can’t leave it like this,” he said.

The First Ranking

Accredited members of the press voted on the performances of the first night of Sanremo. Marco Mengoni, Elodie and Coma Cose pushed into the lead, while Anna Oxa occupies the last position. Here is the first partial ranking:

  1. Marco Mengoni
  2. Elodie
  3. Coma_Cose
  4. Ultimo
  5. Leo Gassmann
  6. Mara Sattei
  7. Colla Zio
  8. Cugini di Campagna
  9. Mr.Rain
  10. Gianluca Grignani
  11. Ariete
  13. Olly
  14. Anna Oxa

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