Few surprises in first Eurovision show

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Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) passed the first live test of its massive Eurovision Song Contest production in Oslo Tuesday night, with all the glitz and hype that audiences have come to expect. Performers from 10 countries were predictably ecstatic when they won the chance to move on to Saturday’s final.

Eurovision's Norwegian hosts Erik Solbakken and Haddy Jatou N'jie will be back, along with co-host Nadia Hasnaoui, on Thursday. PHOTO: NRK

Performers from seven other countries participating in Tuesday’s semi-final were predictably disappointed, and they included a few surprises. Thea Garrett from Malta, who’d had good reviews and delivered an impressive ballad, was among those who failed to win enough votes from European TV viewers and professional juries. 

Nor did Finland’s trio of beautiful women in white gowns, one of them playing an accordion, get the nod. Neighboring Estonia and Latvia, Macedonia, Poland and Slovakia were also aced out of further competition.

The Eurovision audience at the Telenor Arena at Fornebu, west of Oslo, was predictably enthusiastic. PHOTO: NRK


Countries moving on included Bosnia and Hercegovina, Moldova, Russia, Greece, Portugal, Belarus, Serbia, Belgium, Albania and Iceland, which performed last and was last to be chosen.

Some Eurovision observers have mounted Iceland as a favorite to win Eurovision this year, and not just based on sympathy votes for the country’s financial crisis and erupting volcano. Iceland’s Hera Björk, who boldly introduced herself as a “diva” at Iceland’s own Eurovision press conference, is a large woman with a commanding presence and powerful voice, singing a song with a French title, in English. 

Each performance was allowed the customary three minutes on stage, with a maximum of six persons making up the cast. Most used all the firepower allowed, with wild costumes, pulsating percussion and overly dramatic presentations.

Then there was the refreshingly normal performance of Portugal’s Filipa Azevedo, a pretty young woman in an elegant gown who smiled and didn’t resort to distracting theatrics, while Tom Dice of Belgium sang a relatively simple song, “Me and my guitar.”

Eurovision’s Norwegian producers, handed the task of putting on the show this year after Norway’s Alexander Rybak won last year, have been preparing for months. Civic boosters were keen to use Eurovision to promote Oslo and Norway as visitor destinations.

There was surprisingly little Norwegian chest-thumping during the first semi-final, however. Apart from a short video spoof of a disrupted guided tour of Oslo for performers, there were only a few glimpses of Norwegian scenery or street scenes.

The second semi-final will air Thursday evening, followed by the final on Saturday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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