Violinist duets with vocalist at Olympics closing ceremony for unique take on Italy’s national anthem

21 February 2022, 13:59

Pop singer Malika Ayane and violinist Giovanni Andrea Zanon
Pop singer Malika Ayane and violinist Giovanni Andrea Zanon. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Violinist Giovanni Andrea Zanon led the Italian national anthem alongside pop singer Malika Ayane at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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At the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, China handed over duties to Italy, which is set to be the host country for the next Winter Games in 2026.

To mark the handover, the Italian national anthem was performed by pop singer Malika Ayane and violinist Giovanni Andrea Zanon as a beautiful solo violin-led arrangement.

China’s theme for the 2022 Winter Games was to celebrate “ordinary people” and they did not have any major celebrities perform at the opening and closing ceremonies. Italy however, decided to highlight their national talents during the flag handover ceremony.

According to Christian Milici, Head of Events for the Milano Cortina 2026 Olympics, the performance decision of bringing a pop star and classical star together was to, “represent the excellence of their seemingly distant worlds, as a metaphor or a harmonious dialogue between two opposites”.

Read more: When Pavarotti sang his final ‘Nessun dorma’ to close Italy’s Olympics Opening Ceremony

Pop singer Ayane, born in 1984, grew up in Milan, and as a teenager sung in the White Voices Choir at Italy’s famous opera house, the Teatro alla Scala. She also studied the cello at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in her hometown.

Ayane broke into the pop industry in the 2000s, and had multiple top 10 singles in Italy during the 2000s and 2010s.

However, she has also crossed over into the classical genre before. In 2009 she featured on Andrea Bocelli’s cover of ‘Blue Christmas’ on the operatic Italian tenor’s 13th studio album, My Christmas.

Violinist Zanon, born in 1998, is a graduate of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, and at the age of just 24 has already “won over 30 national and international competitions”.

Zanon performs on a Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ violin which was made in 1739 and was previously owned by American-born violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Unlike the usually full orchestral version of the Italian national anthem, Ayane and Zanon performed a solo violin-led arrangement, where Zanon added impressive semi-quaver passages to the score.

The Italian national anthem only technically became the country’s official anthem in December 2017, 170 years after its original composition.

Read more: What are the lyrics to Italy’s national anthem, and what do they mean?

The 2026 Olympics will take place across both Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, hence the name Milano Cortina. It will be the first Olympic Games to be hosted by two cities, two regions and two provinces.

The choice of location is reflected in the main theme for the 2026 games, which is “creating a bridge between mankind (Milano) and nature (Cortina)”.

The 2026 logo was revealed in a theatrical performance at the 2022 closing ceremony as two young people walked on the surface of what appeared, thanks to lighting tricks, to be thin ice while playing with a globe.

According to the Milano Cortina Instagram page, this was to suggest the fragile condition of our planet, and sustainability will be at the heart of these next Games.

The performance was concluded by the tagline of the next Games lit up on the floor by LED lights, “Duality, Together”.

Read more: This mesmerising dance of bodies for the Paralympic Games is a visual masterpiece