Saturday’s Selectia Nationala Final ended with a surprising victory for Cezar “The Voice” Ouatu, who is virtually unknown in Romania – mainly because he lives in Italy, but also because countertenors are not big on the Romanian music scene.
In a nail-biting event, he even beat Casa Presei during the televoting, and placed third in the jury votes behind Electric Fence and Luminita Anghel. That was enough to finish first.
But who is Cezar Ouatu, who called him “The Voice” and why?
Born in Romania to a family of musicians, he started studying the piano at 6 and, after finishing school, started a career in jazz. He discovered his voice at the age of 20 and was admitted to the Giuseppe Verdi conservatory in Milan, from where he graduated with honors. At the age of 33, he is now considered one of the world’s best countertenors. He is popular not only among the fans, who call him “The Voice”, but also among his peers: Famous musicians like soprano Angela Gheorghiu, singer Andrea Bocelli and composer Vangelis consider him one of the greatest voices in the opera world.
Last year however, he decided to embrace the mainstream and to perform for a larger audience. His first single, “Cinema Paradiso”, was released just last Christmas, as the first pop opera project in Romania:
Songwriter Cristian Faur – who, coincidentally, also wrote Luminita Anghel’s “Let Me Try” – first had the younger Narcis Ianau (another popular Selectia Nationala 2013 contestant) in mind. But then he was introduced to Cezar Ouatu and knew he had the right artist. The song “It’s My Life” was recorded just days before the pre-selection deadline, and entered the competition at the last minute. The rest, as they say, is history, which culminated with Cezar’s surprising triumph over more established names and feared favorites.
However, reactions in Romania and all over Europe have been either very pro or extremely against him (there are a lot of counter-countertenor jokes flying around), with very few, if any, being indifferent to the Romanian entry.
In a TVR show on Sunday that analyzed the result of the Final, Cezar himself admitted that his style of singing is not the norm for Eurovision, but the fact that he people voted for him gave him hope and confidence that he will repeat the victory in Sweden. He also announced that the Romanian delegation will promote it throughout Europe prior to the contest in May.
During the same show, Dan Manoliu, chief of the Romanian Eurovision committee, noted that Cezar is a polarizing choice for Romania. Here’s what he said:
After the Final, I couldn’t sleep a wink. I stayed up all night and read the comments, the blogs, and the Eurovision forums, and all I can say is that it’s a toss-up. For me it is clear that we will either sink to the bottom of the list or rise to the very top. Opinions vary to the extremes, there are no in-betweens. People either love or hate the song. But it’s definitely a plus that it’s not a forgettable act. And we will do our best to make it truly unforgettable in a good way. But it will still be up to the voters and the juries, and we won’t know until the end of the semi-final if we can dream big or if we have to come home early.
The article I posted on Saturday night, shortly after the Final ended, seems to only confirm this: you guys find Cezar’s performance of “It’s My Life” either awful or awesome.
The only question is how many people love it and how many hate it? Is it really a toss-up or is it possible that Romania could even fail to even qualify for the Eurovision Grand Final?
Let’s listen to “It’s My Life” once again and put this question to the test.
You are welcome to defend your decision – or, if you are undecided, to come out – below. PS: If you were busy watching the Swedish Final on Saturday, you can watch the Romanian one here.
Bogdan Honciuc is a Transylvania-based correspondent for wiwibloggs and an official blogger for Eurovision Romania 2013. Follow him on Twitter @stingoo.