Romania’s 2013 entrant, internationally acclaimed countertenor but lesser known pop-opera singer Cezar “The Voice” Ouatu, is a very intense and artistic individual. Like most opera stars, he is somewhat disconnected from pop, but is catching up quickly. After agreeing to enter the Romanian Selectia Nationala at the last minute, he embarked on a solid PR campaign and, helped by his charisma and his astounding voice, surprised everyone by winning with the song “It’s My Life”.
Now he’s in Malmö and his promotional campaign continues in full swing. He is heavily sought after by the press and fans, because of his polarizing song “It’s My Life”, and never fails to make an impression of one kind or another. This love-it-or-hate-it act is his best asset and the Romanian wildcard is still keeping everyone guessing with an equally divisive show. Will he or will he not qualify to the Final? We caught up with Cezar, to see what he thinks.
Hi, Cezar. How are you feeling ahead of your semi-final? Nervous?
I’m feeling amazing. We’ve had our first and second rehearsals, which went from great to perfect, and the echoes are positive. More and more people are getting used to my voice, are getting over the shock, and are starting to like the song. As someone commented on YouTube, which I think sums it up best, “I don’t like it… but I like it.” I love that paradoxical reaction because I believe in what I call the “Cezar paradox”. I trust that I can convert my haters into fans. So I am not nervous, honestly I know I may sound like I’m bragging, but I’ve performed in front of opera audiences all over the world and I can’t wait to perform in front of the Eurovision audience on Thursday.
Some people expressed shock and horror after seeing the rehearsals though.
It’s good that it’s shocking, because it stirs emotions, it will be an unforgettable act. I hope they’ll be in shock and awe, rather than horror. There are three elements for every Eurovision contestant: the voice, the show and the song. I think we can agree that Cezar is the talk of the town this year, at least as far as male voices are concerned. As for the show, anyone is entitled to his opinion, but I think we are putting on a show that is conceptually flawless. And the song is modern – with the beats and dubstep and all – and traditional – because of the opera element – at the same time, which means it will reach a lot of people.
Was it the Romanian team’s intention to shock the audience?
Not necessarily, although we wanted something utterly memorable and epic.
The first reactions that I saw on Twitter as you were rehearsing were that you are going for a Dracula theme…
It can be Dracula, it can be God, it can be Lucifer, it can be Caesar the emperor, it can be anyone you want as long as you get the positive message of love that transcends everything and emerges victorious. The message of my show is that love prevails. All my dancers become one at the end and it all comes together beautifully. But I don’t mind if people interpret the show in different ways, on the contrary.
There’s a lot of fuss, in the Romanian press in particular, that you are wearing what they call a black dress.
Yeah, well, honestly, I didn’t think about it in those terms. It can be a dress if it pleases them, but the idea behind it is that I’m a sort of a king and I’m dressed as such, in an imperial gown. The outfit is created by Doina Levintza, the only Romanian designer who presented a collection at New York Fashion Week, and its her vision, which I respect tremendously.
What about the foreign press there, what is their reaction?
It has a changed a lot since I came to Malmö. At first I was treated as a joke act, but I have been asked on many occasions to sing in front of the cameras – including on the red carpet on Saturday, when I perform a lot of arias – and the opinions are shifting. I’ve had journalists who came to me apologizing that they had blasted me at first and assured me that, after seeing and hearing the rehearsals, I am among the favourites now.
During the second rehearsal, you sang the second verse high. Is this how you are going to perform it during the show?
Yes. It’s the songwriter’s choice and I will respect that.
Speaking of favourites, after listening to the other acts, how do you think you will do, realistically speaking?
For now, we are focused on qualifying to the Grand Final, but I personally am aiming for Top 10 on Saturday night.
Bonnie Tyler told the Romanian television TVR that she was very impressed with your voice and, since she is not going to vote for herself, she’ll gladly cast her vote in your favour. Who would you vote for?
Bonnie Tyler is amazing, I’ve met her the other day. I was honoured that she enjoyed my rehearsal and that she praised my voice. I have some favourites myself, but I’m waiting for them to perform live, because sometimes they crack under the pressure. So far, I like the Greek song, it’s a lot of fun, and the voices from Ukraine and Russia. Honestly, I am not a fan of the so-called hot favourite act from Denmark, which seems to me like a copycat of Loreen. But that’s just me…
First of all, thank you all so much. I want to assure you that I will give you my all during the show. I want you to believe in Cezar the artist, the professional who has a lot of stage experience and will not disappoint you. Lastly, I want everyone to also take into account the song itself, which, together with the show and my vocal performance, should be a great success. We’re aiming high!
What are you plans for after the contest, regardless of the outcome? Should we expect a pop-opera album?
I will soon release my new single, which will be a love ballad. I have also been invited by Andrea Bocelli to perform on the stage with him and soprano Angela Gheorghiu in a Bucharest concert, which will happen next weekend, on the 25th of May. My pop-opera album is in the works and we hope to release it in the autumn or winter.
Good luck with all of that and especially on Thursday!
Rehearsals photo credit: Thomas Hanses (EBU).