Italy's most popular song contest has started in the Mediterranean seaside city of Sanremo. Previous participant Elton John is one of the first night guests.
The inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest, 28 artists are taking part in the 66th edition of the Sanremo festival on Italy's Ligurian coast. The winner will have the right to represent Italy at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden.
Over five evenings, starting on Tuesday, 20 established artists or "Campioni" and 8 newcomers "Nuovo Proposte" will premier new songs. The event is being hosted by Carlo Conti with comedian Virginia Raffaele, Romanian actress and model Madalina Diana Ghenea and actor Gabriel Garko.
Patty Pravo, who last participated in 2011, is celebrating her 50-year career at the festival. She made her debut in 1966 with the song "Ragazzo triste." Enrico Ruggeri, who won the contest in 1993, is also returning. Former reality show star Valerio Scanu, who won the main contest in 2010 with "Per tutte le volte che" is taking part again.
International guests will perform throughout the week on stage at the Ariston Theatre. They include Laura Pausini, Elton John, Eros Ramazzotti, Nicole Kidman and Ellie Goulding.
The evening began with a tribute to David Bowie, who died earlier this year.
The first ten artists performing songs were Lorenzo Fragola "Infinite volte," Noemi "La borsa di una donna," Dear Jack "Mezzo respiro," Giovanni Caccamo & Deborah Iurato "Via da qui," Gli Stadio "Un giorno mi dirai," Arisa "Guardando il cielo," Enrico Ruggeri "Il primo amore non si scorda mai," Bluvertigo "Semplicemente," Rocco Hunt "Wake Up" and Irene Fornaciari "Blu."
Italy's state television channel Rai.tv broadcasts the event with viewers voting online for their preferred singer. The final is on Saturday.
Operatic trio Il Volo, who won last year with their song "Grande amore," went on to place third in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Vienna, Austria.
jm/bw (dpa, EFE)