The second semi-final in the 2019 Eurovision was broadcast live around the world Thursday night from Tel Aviv, hours after Madonna finally signed a contract to perform at the grand final Saturday night.
The four Eurovision hosts – Erez Tal, Lucy Ayoub, Bar Refaeli and Assi Azar – greeted thousands of fans in Expo Tel Aviv and millions watching around the world.
“Shalom, erev tov, baruch haba; good evening Europe, good morning Australia!” Azar proclaimed from the stage. “What’s up, party people?”
And, luckily for the four hosts, Madonna signed her contract earlier that day, leaving them free to crack jokes about her upcoming appearance.
Ayoub said that, come Saturday night, a host of huge stars will show up on stage, “and one of them is the ultimate ‘Material Girl.’ She doesn’t like being preached to, but she goes by only one name, and it starts with an M.”
Azar suggested Mariah Carey or Meryl Streep, before Ayoub confirmed what almost everyone in the venue already knew: “It’s Madonna!”
Madonna aside, there was plenty of glitz, glamour and star power on stage Thursday night for the second semi-final, where 18 more countries - Armenia, Ireland, Moldova, Switzerland, Latvia, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Croatia, Malta, Lithuania, Russia, Albania, Norway, the Netherlands, North Macedonia and Azerbaijan - competed for a spot in the grand final.
The theatrics on Thursday didn’t quite reach the same level as the first semi-final, which showcased Australia’s floating dancers and Iceland’s leather and flames, but there was plenty of pageantry on display.
Romania’s Ester Peony performed amid intense pyrotechnics and simulated bats, Denmark’s Leonora perched atop a giant chair, Russia’s Sergey Lazarev belted out his song in a simulated rainstorm and Azerbaijan’s Chingiz sang while two giant robot laser arms drew figures on his chest.
And viewers were treated to another 18 “postcard” videos, featuring the international singers dancing at picturesque sites across Israel. Sweden’s John Lundvik skated down the boardwalk in Tel Aviv, Armenia’s Srbuk danced atop Masada, Keiino of Norway got down in the Judean Desert and Lazarev performed parkour on the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Once the musical numbers were complete and the voting began, viewers were treated to an exceptional performance from The Shalva Band, a beloved musical group in Israel made up mostly of young adults with disabilities. The band sung a rendition of “A Million Dreams” from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman
, complete with on-stage sign language interpretation, and lead singer Dina Samteh reading a short opening script from braille.
The hosts also teased the wide variety of acts showing up in the grand final, including mentalist Lior Suchard, who performed a quick trick with four of the competing acts, Austrian Eurovision legend Conchita Wurst and Sweden's Manz Zelmerlow.
And at the end of the evening, 10 of the 18 countries competing in the second semi-final made it through to the grand final: North Macedonia, The Netherlands, Albania, Sweden, Russia, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Malta.
That means that the Eurovision dreams of Armenia, Ireland, Moldova, Latvia, Romania, Austria, Croatia and Lithuania were cut short in the early hours of Friday morning.
The winning countries from the second semi-final will join the 10 who advanced on Tuesday night: Greece, Belarus, Serbia, Cyprus, Estonia, Czech Republic, Australia, Iceland, San Marino and Slovenia, as well as the big five - Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the UK - and host country Israel.
And they'll all share a stage with none other than Madonna herself.
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