Day 4 of this year’s Eurovision and it’s time for the remaining countries competing in the second semi final to take to the stage for their first rehearsal. Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus, Slovenia and Poland will be concluding this first run of semi final rehearsals this afternoon. Eurovisionary will be reporting live from the press centre in Wiener Stadthalle.
It is fair to say that this is one of the most anticipated rehearsals this year. Måns Zelmerlöw is one of the favourites to leave Vienna with the Eurovision trophy in his hands. A versatile artist and TV presenter, Måns managed to steal the show in this year’s Melodifestivalen, the prestigious Swedish national final. Not only did Måns’ considerable charisma and vocal ability shone through, the graphics used for Heroes also provided one of the most memorable moments in the history of the event. These consisted of hand sketched animation characters being projected around Måns and joining in his stage routine. His song is about self-improvement and building a better word. There was something of a copyright controversy in regards to the presentation graphics a few weeks ago so it is with great interest that we are waiting to see Måns on stage and the new version of his presentation.
Sweden’s first stage rehearsal
Sweden’s presentation remains almost unchanged – why would they want to change such a succesful concept anyway? Måns starts his presentation sitting on a bench against a black background. The hand-drawn animated character then appears sitting beside him and starts mirroring the singer;s movements before blowing a balloon that he then uses to fly about in the background. The configuration of the little animated character ‘accompanying’ Måns in his performance is only slightly changed – the basic concept of an evidently hand-drawn feel remains the same. The gimmick with water coming out of Måns’ hand to form rain, the butterfly and singing face made of dust are still there. The point where an army of animated characters march alongside Måns before bright red blobs spread from their chest to ‘paint’ the whole stage in red is extremely effective. Sweden also has some really good camera work going on even though, this being the first rehearsal of the song, there are some wobly moments. Måns’ vocals sound a bit thinner compared to Melodifestivalen. During the chorus, a backing vocalist can be heard almost as loudly as the Måns himself to the extent that you cannot distinguish between the two. Måns Zelmerlöw nevertheless still looks great on stage – perhaps just a tiny bit tight due to concentration – and one cannot help but think what a charismatic performer he is. Still wearing his grey top and leather trousers, worn with black trainers, Måns has the word ‘winner’ written all over him. Not all people are enthusiastic to the same degree in regards to the song but Sweden is providing us with some truly iconic moments – I would go as far as to say iconic not just in the context of Eurovision but in the context of television history in general. Having said that, Heroes does not look as impressive as it looked in Melodifestivalen (this could be down to having seen many exciting presentations already or it could be that the Swedish concept does not transfer as nicely on this year’s Eurovision stage). We only get to see the last couple of runs of the song shown in the press centre – could it be that Sweden is feeling the pressure of being the favourite? The song gets applauded warmly but perhaps not in as an enthusiastic manner as Russia a couple of days ago (then again the Russian presentation had the surprise element working to its favour whereas expectations from Sweden were really high).
Time To Shine
Melanie is originally from Mauritius but has been living the UK for the last five years where she is continuing her musical studies. Indeed Melanie wrote Time to Shine in the UK. This is yet another song about perseverance against adversity and fighting, in this case, to shine. Sweden will be a very difficult act to follow; in a few moments, we will have the chance to see what the Swiss delegation have prepared for their song presentation.
Switzerland’s first stage rehearsal
Switzerland starts with Melanie half hidden behind her cape which she is holding high over her head. the stage is lit in blue throughout the performance and we get yet another night forest scene. White tree trunks are lit by flickering lights. Four female drummers are dramatically performing to the tune of the song’s intro and feature heavily in the beginning. behind the main singer who is standing on a raised glass platform. Melanie is performing really well both vocally and in terms of the way she moves. In time for the chorus, her cape is soon thrown behind her back to reveal a strapless long white dress with an embroidered bodice and a wide, flowing skirt with a front cut that reveals her legs. The singer then uses her flowing cape to good effect while moving her arms. When the stage floor is lit, it looks as if it is actually filled with fallen leaves underneath its glass top. Dried ice as well as steam jets are tried out during the rehearsal session. The presentation actually looks quite sleek – a pleasant surprise from Switzerland!
One Thing I Should Have Done
Cyprus decided to revamp its national final the year following a format that was initially inspired by the Swedish Melodifestivalen. 20 year old John, was a favourite with the judges from the beginning of the show and managed to win the show in the end. This is a very calm, understated ballad where John is singing to his former lover regretting over, as the title suggests, one thing he should have done. The song is created by Mike Connaris who provided Cyprus with one of their best results in Eurovision back in 2004 when another song of his, Stronger Every Minute, managed to rank fifth. One Thing I Should Have Done is all about simplicity musically so it will be interesting to see whether this will be carried over to the song’s staging.
Cyprus’ first stage rehearsal
Cyprus are being bold with their presentation. The picture is in black and white to start and the camera is in soft focus as we see John singing against a black background – there is a distinct retro feel here. Colour is back in time for the chorus. The most original part comes next, however, when we get long shots of John standing in the middle of a completely dark stage (to the extent that the figure of the singer is the only thing visible against all the blackness); this is quite striking visually while still in keeping with the song’s understated simplicity. John is performing looking really relaxed in his thick black glasses, black suit, white shirt and black tie. His voice sounds gentle. The stage is subsequently lit by impressions of sparkling ‘stars’ in white and, occasionally, blue, purple, orange and dark pink. There is use of dry ice with the stage being lit to its brightest each time John sings ‘I should have been there for you’ when there are ‘explosions’ of bright colour followed by an ‘aftershock’ of ‘cosmic waves’ in the background and under John’s feet on the stage floor. The song finishes with another close up of John gently criss-crossing his fingers over the microphone as the picture turns back to black white and the focus becomes softer. I am not entirely sure, but I think that the sequence with the completely black background is taken away in subsequent runs (could it have been in place while trying to figure out camera angles? if so, they should re-introduce it as it looked really sharp and in keeping with the introduction of the presentation). Quite classy nevertheless. A nice presentation from Cyprus.
Here For You
Maraaya is a combination of the names Marjetka and Raay, a married couple in real life. Marjetka is also a voice coach and Raay is one of Slovenia’s most popular young pop composers, also credited as the composer of last year’s Slovenian entry. Here For You is a pop song with a sophisticated twist and its lyrics describe how in relationships one party has to help the other pull through the difficult times, how the meaningful it is when such support is reciprocated. Slovenia’s is one of the popular songs this year and many people in the press centre are eagerly anticipating their first rehearsal.
Slovenia’s first stage rehearsal
The sound volume sounds a bit lower to me inside the press centre for this one. As a result, it is difficult to hear the music and Marjetka’s performance and the overall effect is a bit underwhelming from the start. The stage is lit predominantly in warm yellow and orange against a dark background. Marjetka is wearing the same lacey white dress she was wearing for the Slovenian selection; both her and Raay behind his piano are still wearing their characteristic bulky headophones (there is a rumour around the press centre that they will be handing out a few replicas to journalists as part of their entry’s promotion). Marjetka looks a bit serious on stage, her vocals a bit strained (at least that’s the impression one gets as, as noted earlier, it is not very easy to hear what exactly is going on). The female dancer used in the Slovenian selection is also there carrying out her violinist interpretation in her tight one-piece outfit. The stage changes into bright white but there is nothing more than a few moving spotlights and some panoramic camera work otherwise.There is considerable improvement as the runs progress with the performances getting sleeker and sleeker. Slovenia are going for simplicity. It remains to be seen whether it will pay off.
In The Name Of Love
Monika is a singer and songwriter. Her blossoming music career was abruptly cut short in May 2006 when, after a serious car accident, Monika were left partially paralysed and, to this day, she has to use a wheelchair. After years of focusing on her rehabilitation, she decided to return to singing. In The Name Of Love is a poignant song about perseverence; with all the different songs dealing with the same thing, one feels that, due to her personal experiences, Monika is better placed than most to sing about staying strong through the difficult times and carry on.
Poland’s first stage rehearsal
Poland’s presentation starts with a shot on a pianist playing a white piano. The camera frame widens and we see Monika singing to the camera. When the frame widens even more, we can also see that Monika is sitting on a wheelchair wearing a wide dress with a small gold pattern on it main body with a see-through white over-skirt spread either side of the wheelchair. The display in the background is really sweet; lengths of pink curtains waving to trees in pink blossom. Pink is also used for the rest of the stage. Three backing vocalists are initially silhouetted against the background. Monika looks a bit unhappy after the first run of her song; she coughs a little and touches her throat. Poland’s rehearsal otherwise goes smoothly. The presentation could have been a little more animated, perhaps with a few more sweeping camera sequences or the use of a wind machine but this is anyhow a sweet performance that finishes with Monika blowing a kiss to the camera. Poland’s rehearsal concludes the first round of the rehearsals for the semi finals.