The Italian Almanac



Reclusive Italian singing legend Mina is to open this year`s Sanremo Song Festival with a video tribute to Italian music. ``It won`t be a commercial release but a huge tribute to the history of Italian music,`` festival artistic producer and presenter Paolo Bonolis said at a press conference on the February 17-21 event. ``The greatest voice in Italian (pop) music will open this festival,`` Bonolis said.

Asked if the famously retiring star would actually be there, Bonolis indicated that she would appear in a video link or recording. ``We`ll see her and hear her,`` he said. Bonolis said Mina had decided to ``help`` the festival. Long a part of Italian popular culture, the weeklong showcase that `made` songs and launched careers has been hit in recent years by a steady decline in ratings.

Mina, 68, is reckoned by many the finest female pop singer Italy has produced. Louis Armstrong once called her ``the greatest white singer in the world``. She last appeared on TV in 1974 and in public in 1978. Although she kept issuing regular albums from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, her last hit album was in 1975 - until 1998 when a dual album with another pop great, Celentano, went straight to No.1. All the while she hid away at Lugano, Switzerland, running from paparazzi whose every fuzzy shot of her made the gossip mags.

Mina has had dozens of top ten hits including Tintarella di luna (Moon Tanned - 1959), Il cielo in una stanza (The Sky in a Room - 1960), E` l`uomo per me (He is the Right Man for Me - 1964), Insieme (Together - 1970) and, her last, L`importante e` finire (The Important Thing is to Finish It - 1975). She appeared in ten films during her heyday in the 1960s. As well as being a cultural icon, Mina was also a symbol for feminists. In 1962 she was banned from the airwaves of the Catholic-dominated RAI TV when she revealed she was dating a separated man who had a son. Her popularity forced RAI to climb down two years later.