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text Antonia Ruggiero
photo portrait Assunta Servello

December 3, 2019

My pop Sanremo

Amadeus. the new presenter of the 70th edition of the Sanremo Music Festival

Rome, where are you? You were with me. Today you’re a prison, I’m a prisoner. Rome, ancient city, now old reality, you don’t notice me and you don’t know how much I pity you.

This is Vacanze Romane, the beautiful dedication to Rome that Matia Bazar sung during the 1983 Sanremo Music Festival. The lyrics were inspired by the end of the dolce vita, with an eye towards the future and today more current than ever. After all, singers and songwriters are nothing more than modern-day poets. Adriano Celentano, Vasco Rossi, Renato Zero, Zucchero, Rino Gaetano, Elio e le Storie tese, Mia Martini, and Mahmood are just a few of the most innovative artists in the history of the Italian music festival. This year, Amadeus has been called upon to pay tribute to an especially important edition, the 70th. The festival is like a party among family, bringing together Italians, reflecting who we are and predicting who we’ll become. 

What are some childhood memories of the festival?

My memory is tied to my family, my parents and grandparents. We were all at home watching the television. No one made any plans, and everyone would say, “Hey! The festival is tonight!” This still happens today. Everyone has come together to watch it for the last 69 years. Everyone talks about it, thinks about the songs, interesting facts, gossip. This is why I’ve always said that the festival is belongs to everyone. 

From Radio Verona to Radio DJ and Sanremo, you’ve had a good career as a TV presenter. When did you know you wanted to do this job?

Immediately. When I was a kid, about 13 or 14 years old, my dream was to be a presenter, watching Mike Bongiorno and his quizzes, Rischiatutto, or Canzonissima presented by Corrado and Carrà. At the time - we’re talking about the ‘70s - it was like an impossible dream, but it was the only thing that I really wanted to do. I didn’t have a plan B; it was this or nothing. It was risky; it was a long shot for a kid fresh from the countryside, without contacts, without an important parent to follow in the footsteps of. But I thought that in life, if you have a dream and you want to make it come true, then you can; all it takes is insisting, trying, being curious, and making sacrifices. You can dream for 100% success, and though you maybe won’t get all 100%, you can perhaps get 50%. In my case, I dreamed for 100%, and with doing Sanremo, I can say I’ve reached that goal. 

As a presenter, how would you describe your festival? 

I believe that the festival has to have its dose of tradition because there are some doctrines that you simply must maintain, but after that, I think that every presenter brings their personal style of storytelling. I will bring my friendly, ironic, and self-deprecating style to the festival. I love to destabilize things, so it’s ok that there are some doctrines to follow, but at the same time, I like that nothing is expected. I’ve always said that it must be an unpredictable festival. I don’t like repetitiveness.  

Fiorello and Jovanotti will be like brothers participating in this big party amongst family.

That’s right. I don’t know what they’ll do; they haven’t told me. I’ve known Lorenzo and Fiorello for 35 years. They’re two amazing artists and their unpredictability is what I like most about them. We all started together in the ‘80s as radio DJs, and the door to Sanremo was wide open for them. What they’ll do, what will happen, I’m not sure. I know that they’ve been in contact and that they will surprise me with something. But when you have two artists like that, you don’t even ask what they’ll do. 

Radio and music are written in your DNA as an artist. What is your favorite song from the festival?

There isn’t really one in particular, but I like a lot of them, and I remember a lot of them fondly. The beautiful thing about Sanremo is that there are songs that have accompanied us along the way and which are tied to our history, our life, our journey. 

As artistic director, what “editorial” line do you follow in choosing the songs?

I start with emotions. We’re receiving many pieces, more than 100, and choosing just 20 songs will be difficult. Unfortunately, a lot of them will not be included, which is a shame. They are songs that I’m listening to every day as I look for an emotion and think about a possible recording. They have to be songs that have a radio following. I want to Sanremo to be pop, something that is for everyone, so I prefer to go for this rather than something niche or personal. 

Hospitality in the city of Sanremo?

Sanremo is a party. Rai is building an impressive structure for the city of Sanremo for the 70th edition of the festival. There will be an outside stage with a red carpet that will be connected to the Ariston Theater. The whole city and its residents will be involved, with events and evening performances outside the festival. The city will be completely involved, which is new. Never in its 69 years has the festival extended beyond the Ariston. This temple of music will still be at the center of the party, but there will also be an outside temple with beautiful things happening all around Sanremo.

Speaking of Vacanze Romane, what are your favorite places in Rome?

I spend a lot of time in Rome for work, especially the Rai area, and it’s an open-air museum like few other places in the world. Unfortunately, it’s been a bit abandoned in recent years. I say this with sadness because it’s a heritage to preserve, and I say that as a non-Roman because it truly is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 

Speaking of beauty, will Bellucci be there?

Who knows! Maybe! When people ask me about attendees, I always say, “Perhaps!” We’ll see. This is also part of the surprise and unpredictability that I hope to offer.


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