The Italian Almanac

Adriano Celentano

Useless and Senseless

Italy's much-loved annual song festival Sanremo kicked off in controversial style when guest star Adriano Celentano gave a long monologue in which he said two top Catholic publications should be closed. Veteran singer Celentano, one of Italy's biggest celebrities, said that Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and popular Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana were "useless and should be shut down".

Avvenire Editor Marco Tarquinio said Celentano was taking revenge on his publication for criticising the amount of money state broadcaster RAI spent to bring him to the festival. Franco Siddi, the head of journalists union FNSI, said Celentano's comments about the publications were "senseless". The polemics did not harm Sanremo's viewer ratings on the first night, with over 14.3 million people estimated to have tuned in, almost half (48.51%) of the share of TV viewers. That was even better than the first night of last year's highly successful Sanremo, when 14.175 million people watched, 45.2% of the share.

The Sanremo festival, an institution for music fans and star-curious alike, hits the air for five evenings during which performers do their best to win the coveted best-singer award. Since it started in 1951 it has launched the careers of a number of Italy's top singers, such as Laura Pausini and Eros Ramazotti.