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Italy: the most expected comeback!

05 April 2011 at 21:30 CEST

Nicola Caligiore started working at the Italian national broadcaster, RAI, two years ago and for almost one year he has been working in the International and Institutional Relations Department that, under the guidance of its new Director, Marco Simeon, managed to get RAI back into the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ciao Nicola! Congratulations for the return of your country to the competition. Maybe we should know first of all about the background that the Eurovision Song Contest has in Italy, could you help us?

NC: In general in Italy only a few people know about Eurovision any longer, the not-so-youngest remember the "eurofestival", as we called it, which has little to do with what the contest is today. The format has developed a lot into a very modern show. I actually learned about the existence of the contest when living abroad.

 The emotional wave towards the Eurovision Song Contest impressed me and aimed me to learn more about it - here in Italy it's not that people hate it or love it,  most people just don't know exactly what it is. Is it what you expected or do you find it very different?

NC: Before my department fought for this to happen, we documented ourselves a lot, watching DVDs, reading on the internet, etc. in order to work with reliable information and data, so we kind of knew what we were dealing with. I've also worked with many of the people involved in Eurovision as EBU members. What's surprising me the most is the giant organisation, as I didn't imagine it so complex, but it's completely understandable when we're talking about a competition involving 43 countries.

Thirteen contests without Italy What can you tell us about Italy's absence of thirteen years from the Eurovision Song Contest?

NC: I don't know much, to be honest. I wasn't working at RAI in 1997 when we last competed and many people that dealt with the contest in the past are no longer working in our TV station, so it's a bit complicated for me to make a real story about it. What I can say is that the last broadcasts we showed in the nineties were not entirely satisfactory, in terms of ratings, and the format was growing tired. When the obsolete product was revolutionised, and probably still thinking at this old format, there was nobody at RAI willing to invest on it. This including Italy hosting the competition in 1991, after Toto Cutugno's victory in Zagreb the year before.

NC: Yes, which probably caused a lot of trouble being the big investment it was with results that weren't excellent, so the feeling was "Why are we putting such resources into something which is not working?" and I guess year after year the interest was lost in such format. So there were not other reasons, political, ranking-disappointments, or any other gossip that's been spreading during these 13 years.

 Italy simply had to be there

NC: No, I don't think so. On the other hand we are coming back mainly for a reason that might be addressed as “political”: we do strongly believe that the added value of this contest is the moment of “European Awareness” that it develops and, as a public broadcaster, we have to address any possible effort toward this direction. Considering the Eurovision Song Contest merely as a singing contest it’s rather diminishing: it is a great TV show but more importantly is one of the few moments in entertainment, besides sports of course, where 43 countries confront and present themselves at once in the most immediate “universal language” I can think of, music. Italy simply had to be there. 

A most anticipated comeback How did the idea to return this year appear? Were you invited year after year?

NC: The return of Italy to Europe's favourite TV show is an issue that's discussed every year when we attend the EBU assemblies, our President received several invitations to come back: we gathered information, we discussed it very extensively and now we’re back! After being absent for so many years, what's RAI preparing to promote the contest in Italy and make this an enduring participation?

NC: We're going to have the maximum diffusion possible, which is a big challenge. Italy has a very fragmented market and we already have our own big music event, which is of course the Festival di Sanremo: it's not easy to catalyse all this attention to another big music show, but we're full of ideas which we are getting ready in these days. One of the ideas to try to keep the Italian audience glued to the contest is that, during the Final, we'll have a popular face and some guests commenting from Italy to the Italian viewers. They, of course, won't interfere with the songs, just try to keep the atmosphere of the contest up by explaining to our audience what's going on. Do not worry, we will have great respect of the original format and our intervention will be minimal: we need this to promote the Eurovision Song Contest as much as possible and make it a success since we came back to stay. 

 Our Festival Di Sanremo inspired the Eurovision Song Contest and we decided to link them again You talked about Sanremo, this union with the Festival has always been a strong tie between Italy and the Eurovision Song Contest.

NC: Yes, Eurovision has always had a strong bond with the Festival di Sanremo: our festival actually inspired the Eurovision Song Contest model back then. We decided to link again the two events though not only for historical reasons but because there is no better way to promote a “new” event to the Italian public than channeling it to the Sanremo hype - the Festival rates this year were amazing : more than 50% share and 15 million viewers for five nights. 

Raphael and his Madness Of Love For this comeback you've chosen the winner of the "new artists" category, what was the method and reason used to select Raphael Gualazzi for Eurovision?

NC: First of all, he is a great artist. And also, we wanted to return with some quality entry, a sincere music project that's maybe not what people expected for Eurovision. It's not a tailor-made product, and I'm not snobbish about other musical projects or styles, it's just that Raphael has originality, creativity and sincerity, he is a real musician who writes and does everything himself. And he is backed by Sugar Music, an Italian label that works with Andrea Bocelli, Elisa and other quality artists nowadays. They had an international project ready for this artist, regardless of the contest.

 It's an added value to be back with something different, a pop-jazz song with its special vibes But did you consider other entries?

NC: Yes of course we considered several ones, but a technical jury that evaluated the international projects presented, decided that Raphael was the best one. To be back with something so different, a pop-jazz song with its special vibes, is an added value. To have the song performed bilingually in English and Italian will let the European audience understand it while keeping some of our characteristic elements as a country. And what are Raphael's own aspirations for Düsseldorf?

NC: Obviously, when someone takes part in a contest, it has to be aiming to win. But even if he's just taken part in Sanremo, he is used to a very different kind of events, like jazz competitions. As the audience in Italy is responding very well to him, to his victory and to his music, he is very motivated for his participation in the Eurovision Song Contest! wants to thank Mr. Nicola Caligiore for the kindness in giving us some of his time to reply to our questions and wish him and the Italian team all the best in Düsseldorf.

Now you can check out the Italian entry for the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest: Madness Of Love by Raphael Gualazzi:

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