MALMO, Sweden — Flashy skirts, fake tans, fur and feathers: Welcome to the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest.
The televised extravaganza, with an audience of 125 million worldwide, is now in its 58th year. Once again without fail, it has produced a mix of bubble-gum pop songs, somber ballads, bagpipes, accordions and bizarrely kitsch musical productions.
The winner, chosen from 40 countries, is picked by juries and television viewers across the continent. Contests this week have whittled the field down to 26 acts for Saturday’s final.
A look at some of this year’s notable performances:
Dracula reborn with a techno beat and pyrotechnics: that’s Cezar. The contra-tenor famed for international opera productions is attempting a crossover opera-pop number with “It’s My Life.” The result: A man with a powerful voice amid a bizarre spectacle.
The blonde whirlwind from Finland caused a stir by kissing a female dancer in her group. It didn’t raise eyebrows in the campy competition that is Eurovision, but the move upset some people in Europe, where it was interpreted as a stand for gay marriage.
EMMELIE DE FOREST-DENMARK
This year’s favorite according to the bookies. Denmark’s answer to Shakira, minus the body gyrations. Borrowing Loreen of Sweden’s winning concept from last year, she performs barefoot but has dropped the mystique in favor of an earthy, innocent look.
Ognevich hits a hippie theme with butterflies, forests and mists. For an unknown reason, she is carried onto the stage by the tallest man in the U.S. – Ukrainian-born Igor Vovkovinskiy, who measures 7 feet, 8 inches (2.13 meters). Her traditional, up-tempo Eurovision pop tune displays little originality.
Despite last year’s fiasco for Britain’s 76-year-old Engelbert Humperdinck, the island nation once again places its hopes on a seasoned performer. This time it’s `Total Eclipse of the Heart” star Bonnie Tyler. The 61-year-old 1980s singer has sold more than 20 million records but this time delivers the sleepy ballad “Believe In Me.”
Sixteen years after her rock anthem hit “Nobody’s Wife,” Anouk returns to the international stage with the somber “Birds.” Dressed entirely in black, she stands center stage, relying on her voice and a soft string orchestra.
This clean-cut performance is the bookies’ second favorite. With a high-pitch voice and a heavy techno beat, Berger produces a traditional Eurovision pop tune.