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Sanremo banks on nostalgia for 64th edition

Baglioni, Paoli, Carrà, Arbore join Yusuf Islam,Rufus Wainwright

10 February, 19:16
Sanremo banks on nostalgia for 64th edition (By Emily Backus).

(ANSA) - Sanremo, February 10 - Major blasts from the past are in store for Italy's popular Sanremo music festival next week, mixing nostalgia and proven stand-bys with the new and yet to be known, organizers announced at a press conference Monday. The comic duo that last year garnered high praise and record ratings for the five-evening pop-song competition and entertainment extravaganza are returning this year to conduct the event's 64th edition, which kicks off Tuesday, February 18.

Left-leaning hosts Fabio Fazio and Luciana Littizzetto had triggered pre-fest fears last year that they might impinge on last February's election campaign, but managed to entertain 11.9 million viewers on average throughout the marathon fest, never dipping below a 42% audience share and peaking at 66.6% - the best result since 2001.

Fazio thanked the RAI 1 television director for bringing him and his performance partner back.

"I thank Giancarlo Leone for having me here again. Its something that isn't done, especially when things have gone well," Fazio joked.

Fazio added that the artists and songs chosen to compete this year were chosen strictly on musical merit.

"We didn't want a television cast," Fazio quipped.

The theme guiding the festival this year "will be that of beauty, felt as a necessity," Fazio said.

Stalwarts of the Italian pop and entertainment scene will be making appearances, like 62-year-old Claudio Baglioni, 76-year-old showman Renzo Arbore and 93-year-old actress Franca Valeri. Homage will be made to legendary conductor Claudio Abbado, who died last month at 81.

French actress and model Laetitia Casta will return to Sanremo's spotlight after a 15-year absence. Foreign special guests also include Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, and Rufus Wainwright.

Meanwhile, 70-year-old showwoman Raffaella Carra' and 79-year-old singer-songwriter Gino Paoli will flank Sicilian show host Pif for the pre-festival.

The five-day fest pits 14 big artists against each other and eight new artists for best new talent. This year there will be a digital "pre-festival" and "post-festival", and Radio2 will be broadcasting 60 hours of live Sanremo coverage, from music performances to interviews and backstage antics at the Ariston theatre where the event takes place.

Radio2 described its team of hosts and artists as an "assault squad" ready to pounce.

The Sanremo festival is an institution for music fans and star-curious alike.

The festival's first edition was in 1951 with only two participants, but since then it has launched the careers of a number of Italy's top singers including Eros Ramazotti and Laura Pausini.