Netta Barzilai, Israel’s contestant in this year’s Eurovision singing competition, advanced to the finals of the contest on Tuesday night.
The combined points from jurors and from televoters sent her sailing to the next round along with nine other countries out of the 19 competitors in the first semifinal. The second contest will be held Thursday night to determine who will make up the 26 finalists performing on Saturday.
For the past two months, Israel was the favorite among the betting websites to win, but just before the beginning of the competition it slipped into second place. Replacing Israel and Netta at the top was Cyprus’s Eleni Foureira.
Barzilai’s performance of “Toy” got rave reviews both inside and outside Israel.
Fania Oz-Salzberger, a professor and the daughter of famed author Amos Oz, tweeted that she “unashamedly” loves the song “Toy.”
“It’s bold, fun, female, and chutzpah,” she wrote. “What’s more, she stands for my kind of Israel.”
Paul Dunphy Esquire, an Irish commentator, said Barzilai’s performance was “batshit crazy wonderful… LOVE HER.”
The audience in Lisbon seemed to get moving when Barzilai took the stage, and gave her a resounding round of applause.
But the crowd also went crazy for Foureira, who brought some slick Beyonce-style dance moves and strong vocals on her song “Fuego.”
Eran Swissa, the culture reporter for Israel Hayom who is in Lisbon, said the audience reaction to Cyprus was overwhelming.
“If we’re judging by the response from the crowd in the hall then we have a winner,” Swissa tweeted. “And it’s not Netta.”
As usual there was a large contingent of Israeli fans present in the theater on Tuesday night. A large inflatable Israeli flag hammer was visible throughout many of the performances. Overall, the night was full of the fun, kitschy and glitzy components found at every Eurovision. Most of the songs were performed in English, but Albania, Armenia and Greece performed songs in their native tongues, while Estonia opted for a song – an opera, really – in Italian.
The other countries to advance on Tuesday night were Austria, Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Albania, Finland and Ireland. At one point Belgium was considered a frontrunner, but it didn’t make the cut in this semi-final round.
Barzilai will compete in the finals. The order for the final will be determined after Thursday’s semi-final competition.