World Opera Day – a look at Eurovision Opera through the decades
Today marks World Opera Day, being an annual international celebration, which seeks to celebrate and raise awareness of the positive impact and place of opera in society. At Aussievision we have as such decided to collate a list of some of the most memorable operatic songs and artists which have competed on the Eurovision stage throughout the decades, to celebrate their contribution to the Song Contest.
The 2010s features some of the best results from operatic acts, with a public vote win and three top ten results from operatic entries between 2015 to 2019.
The most successful this decade is Italy’s Il Volo, who finished in third place with their pop-opera entry, ‘Grande Amore’ in 2015, which finished first in the televote. Il Volo have since gone on to collaborate with Placido Domingo to release ‘Notte Magica - A Tribute to the Three Tenors’.
Most recently, Australia’s own Kate Miller-Heidke competed with the pop-opera ‘Zero Gravity’ for Australia, finishing in 9th place in 2019. Kate Miller-Heidke is a trained classical singer, having worked with Opera Queensland, Opera Australia, the English National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.
Moving back to 2018, Estonia was represented by classically trained Elina Nechayeva, with her Italian-language entry ‘La Forza’, coming in 8th place.
Rounding out the notable operatic entries from the 2010’s is a collection of male-sung entries from Romania, France and Croatia, all of which failed to reach the top ten placing in their respective grand finals. These include Romania’s 2013 ‘It’s My Life’ by Cezar (13th place), France’s 2011 Corsican-language ‘Sognu’ performed by Amaury Vassili (15th place) and Croatia’s 2013 and 2017 entries, Klapa S Mora with ‘Mišerja’ (Did not qualify) and Jacques Houdek’s self-duet ‘My Friend’ (13th place).
Moving to the 2000s sees Sweden’s Malena Ernman with her opera-dance beat fusion entry, ‘La Voix’, which finished in 21st place in 2009.
2007 saw two operatic acts compete, with Slovenia’s Alenka Gotar and her entry ‘Cvet Z Juga’ finishing one place higher in 15th place, than the competing operatic entry by Lativa, the popera song ‘Questa Notte’, performed in Italian by the group Bonaparti.lv, which finished in 16th place.
Between a collection of operatic entries from Romania (2002, 2008), Bulgaria (2009), Israel (2004) and Malta (2004), a set of presenters have also featured an interval act with opera at Eurovision – this being Annely Peebo and Marko Matvere with A Little Story In The Magic, back in 2002 in Estonia.
The 1990s saw a minimal amount of opera performed, with Croatia’s 1995 entry ‘Nostalgija’ finishing in sixth place, being performed by opera singer Lidija Horvat-Dunjko, along with the group Magazin.
Also, of note in the 1990s is the interval act performed by British opera singer Lesley Garrett during the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest, in which some of the longest operatic notes ever sung on the Eurovision stage were achieved.
Appearing during the 1983 contest is perhaps the song most fitting for this list, being ‘Opera’ sung by the Turkish group Çetin Alp & The Short Wave. Despite repeating the word, ‘opera’ over twenty times, in addition to reciting some of the world’s most famous composers and song titles from the opera genre, the group finished in last place, failing to attract the right attention from the juries.
In 1984 Italy was represented by ‘I Treni Di Tozeur’ with Franco Battiato, Alice and three classically trained mezzo-sopranos, whom performed for all of eight seconds, being an excerpt from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
The 1960’s saw three notable opera acts, one of which changed the face of the contest, through their use of language selection. In 1965 Sweden was represented by Ingvar Wixell who performed his song ‘Absent Friend’ in English, being the first time that a country in the contest was not represented by the national language, leading to a rule change being introduced for the 1966 contest, stating that all participants must perform their songs using one of their national languages.
Austria started out the decade with several operatic entries, with ‘Du Hast Mich So Fasziniert’ performed by Harry Winter in 1960 (7th place) and ‘Nur In Der Wiener Luft’ by Eleonore Schwarz in 1962 (Tied last place).
Opera at Eurovision can be found all the way back in the second contest, back in 1957. The United Kingdom’s first entry, ‘All’ was performed by Patricia Bredin, being the first opera-inspired entry in the span of the Eurovision Song Contest.
And there you have it! Opera at Eurovision – as of yet no winners from this genre, but considering the recent success, perhaps it is only a matter of time.