Eurovision 2016 Day 1: first rehearsals from Croatia, the Netherlands and Armenia

EuroVisionary is covering the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 rehearsals live from Stockholm to give you an idea of what to expect! It is time for Croatia, the Netherlands and Armenia to take to the stage of Globen Arena while the rehearsals for the First Semi Final continue.

After an hour-long break, it is time for country number five, six and seven in the First Semi Final to rehearse their entries for the first time.

Croatia: Nina Kraljić – Lighthouse

Croatia is returning to the Eurovision Song Contest after a one-year break. What is more, the country is returning with an atmospheric, affective ballad and a good singer in Nina, the 2015 winner of talent show The Voice of Croatia.

We first get a glimpse of Nina halfway through one of the runs of her song. There is a general gasp in the press centre when the camera zooms out and we get to see her frock – a very large, stiff, silvery see-through garment that widens as it reaches the floor. Complemented by a very characterise frilly black collar and Nina’s own short platinum hair, the whole thing results in quite a severe look (though attention-grabbing was probably the original intention). One somehow gets used to it and starts the see the concept behind it as Nina moves to the sound of her song. Whatever poetic effect there is to be had there though is only fleeting. The frock is torn away from Nina’s body by the four backing singers at some point. The singer is dressed casually underneath for her rehearsal, which makes it difficult to tell whether the whole thing will work on the big night.

Vocally there was an audible moment of uncertainty as the singer was hitting the higher notes. In the runs that follow however, Nina is consistently good. The stage is initially lit in blue with the seemingly omnipresent wall of vertical spotlights used here as well. The display on the stage floor appropriately changes (given the title of the song) into an effect of waving water and, subsequently, into what looks like a star-lit sky. The frock still remains in one’s mind as a risky presentational move from Croatia however.

The Netherlands: Douwe Bod – Slow Down

Douwe Bob is a very successful in his native country and has co-written the Dutch entry. The Netherlands is sending yet another American-sounding, mid-tempo song after their success two years ago with the Country-sounding ballad Calm After The Song, which attained a second place for the country (the best result The Netherlands had since 1975).

The presentation starts with a wide camera shot – the display on the stage floor resembles a large round clock. As the camera zooms in, we can make out Douwe Bod, playing his acoustic guitar surrounded by a pianist, a bass player, fellow guitarist and a drummer. Douwe Bod is dressed in a sharp blue suit with his tattoo of a rose on the lower part of his neck showing over his unbuttoned shirt collar (think of a tattoo serving as a bow tie). The stage is lit by warm yellow spotlights, creating a mellow atmosphere. No gimmicks used here, both the lighting and camera work are all about understatement and there is an overall retro feel that matches the style of the song. The spotlights on stage are put to good use by radiating away from the clock shown on the floor.

Quite disconcertingly, Austria’s presentation from last year springs to mind (the song finished last with zero points), yet this one is much fresher and sharper stylistically. Douwe Bob looks the part and the harmonies with his backing vocalist are very good. What looked like a technical problem to start with – Bob Stowe stops singing for an uncomfortably long time (expecting a reaction of applause perhaps?) – is repeated in subsequent runs of the song, which probably means that there is a gimmick in the presentation after all…

Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan – LoveWave

This is when excitement begins. As much as one wants to remain fairly neutral when covering the first rehearsals, one cannot escape the fact that Armenia stands out from everything we’ve seen so far – for all the good reasons, too. Just a few seconds into the presentation, Iveta has already our attention.

There is an initial blurry camera shot of Iveta, lit from behind by sharp spotlights in an otherwise sub-lit stage. Wearing a revealing black number that looks like a black swimsuit, complete with black see-through cape, she looks stunning and as if she means business from the word ‘go’. There is a very dramatic armography going on and more and more features are added run after run of the song. At some point, Iveta herself is lit in bright red against the blue used for the stage, moving sensually to the sound of her quirkily atmospheric song. A great part of the presentation is delivered by some really adventurous camerawork that includes quick cuts from one close shot to the next. There is also dry ice used and, during the third run, we are also treated to some very dramatic pyrotechnics. A really effective sequence involves (computer generated) multiple images of the singer spreading on either side of her before ‘retracting’ back into her. This a very demanding song and she is perhaps holding back (or ought to hold back) vocally at this stage but she is still singing very competently. The presentation closes with spotlights converging on the singer.

The intricate camera work might need some fine tuning (Iveta herself also had a problem during the second run, which had to stop as a result) but this is how you do Eurovision nevertheless. Armenia has thrown everything in while always remaining sharp, stylish and original. It is as arty as Eurovision can be. The first song to get an enthusiastic applause in the press centre today. A true achievement that is likely to convert to Iveta even those who were not initially taken with her song!

Stay tuned for updates with live coverage of the first rehearsals from San Marino and Russia!

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