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  • Writer's pictureSamuel Lee

Prima Vittoria: Looking back at Gigliola Cinquetti's appearances at Eurovision



Today, June 2, is Festa della Repubblica or Italian Republic Day. We hope our Italian readers and followers have a wonderful time taking part in the celebrations.


We at Aussievision have decided to commemorate this day by looking back at all the Eurovision appearances of Italy's first winner: the graceful Gigliola Cinquetti. The first lady of Italian Eurovision has done it all. She has competed, hosted and been an interval act at the contest. Let's take a further look at Gigliola's accomplishments.



1964: A historic landslide for Italy


In 1964 Gigliola won the prestigious Italian Sanremo Music Festival, and with it the right to represent her country on the Eurovision stage at the tender age of 16. Her winning song was appropriately titled 'Non ho l'eta (per amarti)', which translates to 'I'm not old enough (to love you)'.


When the Italian delegation reached Copenhagen for the Eurovision contest, the rehearsal stage was not without its hiccups. 'Non ho l'eta' was three minutes and ten seconds long in duration. However Eurovision rules stipulated all competing entries had to be less than three minutes. The Italian conductor Gianfranco Monaldi had to speed up the performance, at the risk of being disqualified otherwise.


Gigliola told former Australian commentator Julia Zemiro in SBS's documentary The Road to Eurovision: "We didn't know if we could stay within the time frame without spoiling the feel of the song. So that created tension. A mini thriller."



However, Gigliola need not have worried because on the night of the contest things absolutely went her way. Her initial performance was met with raptuous applause that lasted thirty seconds. Although there is no footage of this due to most of the 1964 Contest not being recorded, Gigliola apparently had to come back out to bow a second time after her song.



In voting that followed after all sixteen songs had performed, Italy crushed the competition. Gigliola garnered 49 points, more than three times the amount of runners-up United Kingdom on 17 points. Many Eurovision commentators have remarked such a feat will likely never be repeated under the current Eurovision scoring system.


Gigliola's win marked Italy's first in the Contest. She would also be the youngest Eurovision winner, until 13-year-old Sandra Kim won for Belgium in 1986. 'Non ho l'eta' was also a great commercial success, topping the charts in Italy, Belgium and France.



1965 and 1966: Almost appearances


Interestingly in a break from tradition, Gigliola did not appear in the broadcast of the 1965 Contest held in Naples to hand the trophy to her successor, Luxembourg's France Gall.


However the two of them would compete together in Sanremo 1969 with the song 'La pioggia'. The rules of the festival at the time meant every song had to have a double performance.


France Gall (left) with Gigliola Cinquetti

That rule was also in place for Sanremo 1966, with Gigliola performing along with Domenico Modugno the winning song 'Dio, come ti amo' ('God, How I Love You' in English). It would be the latter though who would represent Italy at Eurovision 1966 in Luxembourg.



However, during rehearsals on the day of the Contest, Domenico performed an entirely new arrangement of the song with his own musicians which went much longer than the three minute time limit. When the show's producers asked Domenico to change his performance back to the original arrangement with the orchestra, the Italian refused.


The tense stand-off meant the idea was floated by the producers that Gigliola should be flown to Luxembourg to perform at the last minute. However, this was deemed impractical by EBU scrutineer Clifford Brown. Domenico was allowed to perform with his own musicians. However, in what could be a case of karma, he finished last with nul points.



1974: Respectable runner-up and censorship


In 1974 Gigliola was internally selected to represent Italy at Eurovision in Brighton, UK. She performed the song 'Si' meaning yes in English. In the song Gigliola describes the exhiliaration she feels as she succumbs to the love of a man.


Gigliola faced stiff competition at Eurovision 1974 with a number of high quality acts.


Australia's Olivia Newton-John was representing the UK with 'Long Live Love' The Netherlands' Mouth and MacNeal, who had a top ten hit in the US with 'How Do You Do', were performing 'I See a Star'. These two were the bookmakers' favourites. Another highly favoured but relatively unknown act from Sweden called ABBA, performed 'Waterloo'. Gigliola though had the advantage of the being the final act to sing on the night.



In the end ABBA took out the crown, but Gigliola came a respectable runners-up. The margin was close, with Sweden picking up 24 points to Italy's 18. There is speculation amongst some Eurovision fans that a last-minute change to the voting system and France's withdrawal from the Contest earlier in the week, cost Gigliola a second victory. We will never know, but Gigliola can still be proud of her silver medal finish.


Interestingly though Gigliola's song 'Si' is one of the least known Eurovision entries in her home country. This is because the song was censored in Italy as there was a referendum in May of 1974 on whether divorce should be re-banned. Italian Eurovision broadcaster RAI did this as they were worried the song may be accused of subliminal messaging. The English version of the song though, called 'Go', was a commercial success in the UK peaking at number 8.



1991: Chaotic presenting at Eurovision


In the 1990s Gigliola turned her talents to journalism and TV presenting. Which is part of the reason that led her to host Eurovision 1991 in Rome alongside another Contest winner Toto Cutugno.


Unfortunately Gigliola and Toto's presenting skills and the show itself was heavily criticised.


Almost the entire show was hosted in Italian, which is not one of the official languages of the EBU, which required Eurovision to be presented in English or French. The broadcast ran dreadfully overtime. The hosts were panned for their nonchalant and unprofessional presenting of the Contest, particularly in the voting sequence as seen in the YouTube clip below.




2022: An amazing return


Thankfully Gigliola's Eurovision story ends on a high note. She performed as an interval act at Eurovision 2022 in Turin, where she sang her winning 1964 entry 'Non ho l'eta'. At the age of 74, Gigliola produced a captivating and inspiring performance.



Gigliola has brought so much to Eurovision. We wish her and all Italians, Buona Festa Della Repubblica!


For continued updates on all the Eurovision news follow Aussievision on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. All links at: https://linktr.ee/aussievisionnet

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