The television music festival that inspired the Eurovision Song Contest, the Sanremo Music Festival, kicks off tonight. The 57th edition takes place at the Ariston Theatre in Sanremo, Italy from 27th February till 3rd March.
The Sanremo Music Festival is the annual Italian song contest held in the city of Sanremo, Italy since 1951. The popular music festival inspired the Eurovision Song Contest. The Sanremo Festival for many years also served as the Italian national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest; the last time this happened was in 1997 when Jalisse, winners of the 1997 Sanremo Festival, represented the country ending 4th with their song Fiumi di parole.
Two categories of artists will be competing: the "Big" and the "Newcomers". On 3rd March there will be two winners, one for each category. Among the ''Big'' contestants there are two former Eurovision Song Contest participants: Al Bano (Italy '76, Italy '85, Switzerland 2000 as backing vocalist) and Antonella Ruggiero (Italy '79 with Matia Bazar). The hosts of this year's festival are Pippo Baudo and Michelle Hunziker.
Although the Eurovision Song Contest abolished the live orchestra in 1999, the live orchestra is still a basic element for the Sanremo Festival. For every act this year there will be a different orchestra director. The Sanremo shows also feature many special guests. This year Penélope Cruz, Lara Fabian (Luxembourg 1988), Norah Jones, Scissor Sisters, Take That, John Legend, Miguel Angel Munoz, Paso Adelante, Joss Stone, Mika, Joss Stone are scheduled. Enough? Not really… On 1st March the ''Big'' will perform their songs in duet with names like Nelly Furtado, Anggun, Mario Biondi, Têtes de bois, Supremes, Amii Stewart, Teresa Salgueiro and many others.