Few events are capable of uniting a country whose connections between regions and latitudes appear more and more clearly. And let’s not say it already, in the era of social media and platforms, before a public television program. Sanremo, however, has never been just any festival. Musically it was the quarry and the main stage of Italian music and a universal model of competition. All the greats sang, grew up or won there. It is also the main event of transalpine public television, the cornerstone around which the entire season is structured. Last year’s wild audience – 63% of the screen – conditions the schedule for the entire year. But it has also always been a fabulous political platform. This year, the first in which Giorgia Meloni’s party entered the RAI board of directors, it does not seem that it will get rid of the smell of political contestation which, this time, comes from the countryside: the tractor movement will try to take advantage of the magnificent speaker of the competition this Thursday.
Politicians know that if they want to stay in the headlines and news during the week that the event takes place in the coastal city of Liguria (northwest of the country), they have to adapt their speech to the party’s focus. The demonstration, which ends on Saturday, has always been a fiefdom of the left, which has used it to protest against right-wing leaders – Silvio Berlusconi was one of the favorite targets of comedians such as Roberto Beningi – and to demand social rights for groups such as the LGBTI community. For this reason, Meloni’s arrival at the presidency of the Council of Ministers was accompanied by the idea of depoliticising the event – that is, making it less hostile to his coalition – and preventing it from absorbing the atmosphere of the squares. It is unclear, however, who this protest might now harm.
The plan first passed through the control of the RAI board of directors and, initially, to the replacement of the event hosts. But neither the second occurred nor the first had enough influence to set the tone and scope of the competition and Amadeus, one of the conductors – who this Tuesday declared himself anti-fascist and sang the Hello beautiful in a press conference – this week he publicly invited the leaders of the agrarian protest to go on stage at the Ariston theater in San Remo where the competition is taking place. “It is a just and sacred protest for the right to work. If they come, they will go on stage,” she announced. Something that his co-host, the comedian Fiorello, later supported. A few hours after the invitation, the leader of the tractor movement in Italy, Danilo Calvani, confirmed the presence of some of these representatives this Thursday. That day the protest should also reach Rome and the farmers will gather near Palazzo Chigi, the seat of the Italian Government.
The theater has been a site of protests since the 1980s. In 1984, for example, a thousand workers of the Italsider steelworks demonstrated in front of its doors against the closure of the Genoa-Conigliano plant. The then presenter, Pippo Baudo, had a group of those workers come so they could explain it to all of Italy. In 1995 an unemployed worker threatened to jump from one of the theatre’s balconies, but Baudo himself took it upon himself to convince him not to do so. Subsequently, in the 2000 edition, hosted by host Fabio Fazio, farmers protesting against the quotas imposed on milk production by Brussels had space. And in 2019, it was a representation of the yellow vests French people who stole the music scene to bring their protest to Italy.
Last year the political line was marked by Meloni’s arrival in power and by the war in Ukraine. In fact, on the day of the inauguration, the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, made a surprise appearance. It was the first time in the history of the event that a head of state appeared in Sanremo. Political parties protested. They didn’t know it would happen. The program management assured that this was due to security reasons requested by the Quirinale. And in those the head of state made a fierce defense of the Constitution which some have read as a warning to the current Executive, which intends to modify the fundamental rule to convert Italy into a presidential system. Benigni’s monologue, harsh and hilarious at the same time, ironically invoked the return of fascism and the government’s alleged hidden plans.
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