Text Silvia Novelli
Sanremo 2017 is proceeding swiftly. #QueenMary denies interfering with the artistic direction of the show and yet this edition of the Festival seems to fit her like a glove: understated, straightforward, a no-frills version that is a far cry from the excesses and the vacuous, cumbersome content fillers made of sketches and ratings boosting outfits seen in previous editions.
Maria is true to herself and on the stage of the Ariston theatre is the same Maria of ‘C’è posta per te‘: at the end of the day, even the most sceptics need to appreciate the fact that if she has been one of the pillars of Italian TV for about twenty-five years, there must be good reasons that go beyond being married to Maurizio Costanzo.
On Wednesday evening, she comes on stage giving out key rings with the face of Carlo Conti: is the intent to reassert the fact that Carlo is the face of Sanremo or to subtly imply that he is a knick-knack in her puppeteer hands? It is up to you to choose the interpretation you want.
The start of yesterday and Wednesday evening was dedicated to the Newcomers’ section and their quick shortlisting to the next round (the singers going into the finals are Francesco Guasti, Leonardo Lamacchia, Maldestro and Lele), followed on Wednesday by the performance of the second group of Big Artists in competition (Bianca Atzei, Marco Masini, Nesli & Alice Paba, Sergio Sylvestre, Gigi D’Alessio, Michele Bravi, Paola Turci, Francesco Gabbani – 2016 winner of the Newcomers section – Michele Zarrillo, Chiara, Raige & Giulia Luzi) and on Thursday, by the cover performances, all punctuated by guest appearances of Italian and international artists. In this respect, Wednesday is the most exciting and delectable evening: Francesco Totti joins in the game, squabbling with Carlo Conti over the (many) goals he scored against Fiorentina, signing autographs and playing with the audience showing – as well as his chiseled footballer’s legs – also a self-deprecating humor that is rarely seen on this stage. Once again, he proves that it is impossible to build an endurable career in football without a strong personality and without being authentic. Then it is the turn of a dazed but always exciting Robbie Williams to perform: before leaving the stage, he gives Maria a kiss on the lips and she does not lose her typical coolness and continues unflappable. Giorgia manages to be faultless despite the risk of a wardrobe malfunction caused by the bustier dress that keeps falling: over twenty years have passed by since her first performance at Sanremo, yet her voice has remained the same, a voice capable of wondrous magic. Among the big guests making a cameo appearance on Wednesday evening is also Keanu Reeves who improvises with the bass guitar crooning ‘Va bene così’ by popular Italian rock singer Vasco Rossi. Some claimed that the production team behind Carlo and Maria should have gotten their hands a bit dirtier, that this 2017 edition of the Festival is too safe. Let’s let them talk their vacuous talk. The third evening feels a little clunky: 4 newcomers, 16 covers and the performances for the repechage round are just too many. But, as they say, the show must go on and the artists going through are Clementino, Giusy Ferreri, Bianca Atzei and Ron, while Nesli & Alice Paba and Raige & Giulia Luzi are voted out. The cornerstone of the evening are the covers and it is interesting to see how De Gregori is performed on two occasions, De Gregori who, over his long-standing career, never once set foot on the Sanremo stage. Having said that, Fiorella Mannoia’s rendition of ‘Sempre e per sempre’ is worthy of standing ovation. Yet, the winner of the cover category is Ermal Meta, the Albanian-born Italian singer who performed ‘Amara Terra Mia’ by Domenico Modugno.
Mika, the A-list guest of the third evening, fills the Ariston theatre with color, poetry and joie de vivre: he jokes with Conti e Maria in fluent Italian, sings some of his big hits and – icing on the cake – pays tribute to George Michael with a sensational rendition of ‘Jesus to a child’. Before leaving though, he uses the lyrics of his ‘Grace Kelly’ to create a poetic performance against all forms of discrimination: «Music changes the colors of my soul. Being all different colors is great. If somebody is not willing to accept the different colors of the world and thinks that one color is better and should have more rights than another or that a rainbow is dangerous because it represents all colors…Well, his loss. We shall leave this somebody with no music».
Images of photographer Marco Piraccini