Opera Eurovision-style

9 May 2019

It is the world’s most outlandish, genial and bonkers singing contest. In other words, a perfect environment for opera. From ‘popera’ to outrageously absurd spectacles, we look at the most operatic Eurovision entries.

Anyone who has ever watched Eurovision knows that it is a beguiling mix of musical genre blending, lost-in-translation lyrics, bizarre fashions, extravagant light shows and, of course, wind machines. Opera has made many appearances in Eurovision over the years but unfortunately is yet to be the ticket to victory. Nevertheless, we give ‘douze points’ to all these acts for showing just how versatile opera can be.

Il Volo (Italy) – Grande Amore (2015)

Firstly, Eurovision’s most successful operatic performance – two tenors and a baritone calling themselves ‘The Flight’ and their song ‘Great Love’ (of course). Who could resist these Italian stallions with their beautifully styled hair and perfectly fitted suits singing down the camera? And what screams Italy more than a backdrop of Roman columns and statues? Popera at its best, Italy won the public vote in 2015, finishing in 3rd place overall after the jury vote.

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Malena Ernman (Sweden) – La Voix (2009)

In 2009, Sweden gave us what Eurovision had been crying out for: a catchy blend of EDM, Europop and opera. Completing the picture are blinding white lights, a feathered fishtail dress and some pointless backup dancers who grab masks halfway through the performance. A veteran of Europe’s major opera houses, Malena performs her operatic parts with gusto throwing in some coloraturas and a dramatic ending.

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Jacques Houdek (Croatia) – My Friend (2017)

Straight off the bat we have a fiddle, a spoken intro and a tuxedo/motorcycle jacket outfit. That must score a few points in Eurovision bingo. But then Jacques, a massive pop star in Croatia, takes it to the next level and sings a duet with himself! Switching between English and Italian, ballad and opera, falsetto and chest voice, he steals his own show. Mind blown.

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Cezar (Romania) – It's My Life (2013)

Cezar’s unforgettable 2013 performance epitomises everything we love about Eurovision: drama, audacity and near-naked men emerging from under silk. The Romanian countertenor (aka ‘the dubstep opera vampire’) slowly rise above stage in a jewel-encrusted vampiresque dress and performs mainly in the high register while dancers perform acrobatics around him. With lyrics like ‘love is so deep, and it makes my life complete’ we can’t believe he only finished in 13th place. 

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Elina Nechayeva (Estonia) – La Forza (2018)

Singing in Italian (a good opera language) about love, stars and destiny (good Eurovision themes), Elina uses her humongous skirt to fill the stage and provide a useful platform for projections of ice, water and flowers (no clichés here). With her lower body rendered immobile, poor Elina must rely on uplifting arm gestures to help express herself. Despite reaching the highest note in Eurovision 2018, it was only good enough for 8th place. 

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Bonaparti.lv (Latvia) – Questa Notte (2007)

Latvia bought this song which had failed Swedish selection and dug up not one, but six local tenors, translated the English lyrics into Italian and, voila, made themselves an opera. Then someone confused the musical group with a website and so they were christened Bonaparti.lv. But seriously, how many opera singers can rock the dinner-jacket-with-jeans look? This Latvian sextet shows that opera can be modern and pop-tastic…and is best performed while grasping a long-stemmed rose.

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Eleonore Schwarz (Austria) – Nur In Der Wiener Luft (1962)

Now a flashback to the days when donning your best ballgown and performing with a live orchestra was the sign of a good Eurovision entry. An opera singer from the Vienna Volksoper with a sparkling smile and pearls to match, Eleonore praises the Austrian capital in a ditty combining operetta and Viennese waltz. It seems no one in the sixties cared much for opera nor the magic of the Viennese air; she scored zero points, finishing in last place.

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Kate Miller-Heidke (Australia) – Zero Gravity (2019) 

Yes, it doesn’t make any sense that Australia competes in Eurovison but who cares. We’ve completely embraced it and in 2019 we presented our most creative entry yet. Classically-trained pop singer Kate literally defied gravity in Tel Aviv, singing operatic notes and trills from a bendy pole. In true Eurovision style, 'Zero Gravity' was fresh, weird and has a banging beat. Kate did Australia (and opera) proud with a top 10 finish.

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Finally, a special mention goes to Turkey’s 1983 entry, simply called ‘Opera’. Dressed in a white tux and sunglasses, Çetin Alp repeats the word ‘opera’ more than twenty times in a quirky, jaunty ballad.

What is your favourite Eurovision act?