(ANSA) – Rome, October 7 – Hollywood actor George Clooney’s Italian sweetheart Elisabetta Canalis will join an aging crooner and a scandal-hit Argentine model in the team presenting Italy’s favourite song festival next year.
Canalis and fellow Latin beauty Belen Rodriguez will flank the main presenter Gianni Morandi, a 65-year-old Italian pop sensation of the 1960s, at the Sanremo Music Festival, organisers have said.
The announcement came after lengthy wrangling which culminated in the artistic director threatening to quit unless state broadcaster RAI, which screens the week-long event, backed the team he picked.
Rodriguez’s presence in the line-up was the main stumbling block after she reportedly admitted having taken cocaine to prosecutors investigating alleged bribes in a case in which she was never accused of any wrongdoing.
Media said there were also fears her appointment might lead to appearances by her ex-boyfriend Fabrizio Corona, a self-confessed scoundrel.
Corona is the former head of a photo agency whose many judicial troubles have led to two prison sentences for seeking to extort money from, among others, soccer players Adriano and David Trezeguet with compromising shots. Rodriguez is almost ubiquitous on Italian advertising boards, TV commercials and shows, largely thanks to the popularity of her sultry looks and curvaceous body. The fluctuations of her relationship with Corona, meanwhile, have been many gossip magazine’s bread and butter.
The 2011 edition of the glitzy festival, which usually takes place late February, will be seeking to build on two years of good ratings after a long period of declining interest.
The festival has launched the careers of a number of the nation’s top singers, including Laura Pausini and Eros Ramazzotti, and has a special place in the Italian public’s heart.
But it is costly and when ratings are low there is inevitably debate about whether the show should go on. Anything less than viewing figures of 12-13 million is considered a failure.
Organisers are confident this will not occur next year with 1987 festival winner Morandi on board to appeal to more mature viewers and comedy duo Paolo Kessisoglu and Luca Bizzarri drafted in from rival network Mediaset to pull in younger people.
Canalis will bring glamour value boosted by her thriving relationship with Clooney.
The American heartthrob said last month he had ”settled down” with the 31-year-old TV presenter and actress, who started out as a dancer on a well-known satirical news show, fuelling speculation marriage could be on the cards.
”We have an important figure like Gianni Morandi with two undisputed brunette beauties and two mischievous elements, Paolo and Luca,” Mauro Mazza, the director of the state broadcaster’s flagship channel RAI 1, said Thursday. ”This cast should ensure we attract a variety of target audiences”.