European citizens of very diverse origins this week represented countries such as Sweden, France, Switzerland or Malta in the two semi-finals of the Eurovision Song Contest – held on Tuesday and Thursday – showing a cultural wealth perhaps somewhat less visible in the institutions of the European Union. Organized in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, its Ahoy theater has been filled with intimate lyrics, calls for the empowerment of women, folklore with a techno touch, costumes that range from overalls to sequins of the music hall, makeup and hairstyles reminiscent of the television Kardashian family, studio smoke and flares, or a good voice in a minimalist set.
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All the performers have almost sobbed their thanks for being there, and the 3,500 spectators admitted to each of the heats have rewarded them with thunderous applause. After the performances, the organizers have announced the order of appearance of the 26 finalists tonight and the first country to perform will be Cyprus. Blas Cantó, the Spanish artist, will sing the thirteenth, and San Marino will close the gala. Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Germany went directly to the final, being the largest contributors to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), as well as the Netherlands, as the winner in 2019, when the festival was held for last time.
According to the Dutch presenter Cornald Maas, considered the greatest Dutch connoisseur of Eurovision, the first semifinal has left songs of better quality than the second, although “a good one is enough to win”. The result will be known tonight, but artists from the 39 countries in the running have already taken the stage of the Ahoy theater, whose stories show European diversity.
An example is Tousin Michael Chiza (Tusse), a Swede of Congolese origin who won the ticket to Eurovision in his country by popular acclaim. Aged 19, he came to Sweden unaccompanied as a refugee when he was 13. He lived with a foster family since he was 15 and his song is titled Voices (Voices). Apart from some poetic images such as “fire in the rain”, it is a song not to be overcome by adversity and to start over without forgetting what was left behind.
The French Barbara Pravi is another example of the unifying power, at least in the name of music, of a quote like this. He has roots in Serbia, Iran, Poland and North Africa, and ensures that he has been inspired by legendary colleagues, such as Édith Piaf and Georges Brassens, to sing Voilà. A “passionate defender of women’s rights”, she calls to recognize the other and their worth as a human being, the right to be seen because they are here (voilà).
In Rotterdam, the festive atmosphere is noticeable around the Ahoy, but less than what the City Council would have liked. Of course, the Dutch queen consort, Máxima, visited the theater on Thursday. He sat in the stands and told Nikkie de Jager, one of the four presenters: “I like all music, depending on my mood,” he said. Born in Argentina, she added with a laugh that she had used Dutch children’s songs to learn the language. De Jager is in charge of the festival’s digital laboratory and has made a show of being the first transgender woman to present it in a dress that reflects the colors of this flag.
Last minute doubt
The big question that must be cleared now is what will happen to Duncan Laurence, the Dutch artist who won the last edition, who has coronavirus. He was supposed to perform live today to then deliver the trophy to the winners, but he is confined and Sietske Bakker, executive producer of this edition of the festival, does not exclude “some form of virtual presence” when offering the crystal microphone, the award of the contest, as he said. What has been known is that three of the presenters, Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley and Jan Smit, who are also singers, will perform a song at the final gala, because they could be seen rehearsing yesterday afternoon.
To enjoy the new composition that Laurence had to present live, it will be necessary to resort to a recording like the ones that all the delegations have prepared in case any of its members tested positive. Iceland, two of whose members have the virus, and Australia, whose representative could not go to Rotterdam due to health restrictions in their country, used a pre-recorded live performance during the semifinals. They received great applause and the show went on.
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