It might be the Eurovision off-season, but Romania brought plenty of song contest glamour with the 2019 edition of the Golden Stag contest. The overall winner was Italian singer Eliza G, but familiar faces from recent national finals also took home honours.

Earlier this year, Eliza G competed on The Voice of Italy, where she was eliminated just before the grand final. But she went on to slay in Romania, taking home the coveted Great Golden Stag trophy last night. Eliza made her mark with her song “Altro che favole” and a cover of Feli’s “Creioane colorate”.

The first runner-up was Austria’s Sara de Blue. Sara is perhaps best known as being one of the acts in San Marino’s 2018 national final 1IN360. Sara competed in Romania with her 1IN360 runner-up song “Out of the Twilight”. She especially impressed the Golden Stag jury, making her the first runner-up.

The second runner-up was the flamboyant Latvian singer Ralfs Eilands. He may be familiar to Eurovision fans as one of the lively performers of PeR, who placed last in their semi-final at Eurovision 2013 with “Here We Go”.

And the third runner-up was Lithuania’s Monika Marija. Earlier this year she competed in the Lithuanian national final with two songs. She placed second at the national final with “Light On” but took her other song “Criminal” to the Golden Stag.

More national final stars picked up special prizes. Australian 2019 national final act Alfie Acruri picked up a prize for Best Interpretation of a Romanian Song, while Armenian 2017 national final singer Syuzanna Melqonyan was awarded the Press Award.

Sadly Eurovision stars Tamara Gachechiladze (Georgia 2017) and Anna Odobescu (Moldova 2019) did not win anything.

Three big nights

The competing acts performed a song of their own choice and also interpreted a Romanian song from a list of 25 modern classics. Among the list of Romanian songs was Voltaj’s 2015 Eurovision entry “De la capăt”, as well as tracks from Romanian stars such as Feli, Dan Bittman and M I H A I.

The festival took place over three nights and also featured performances from notable Romanian and international acts. This included UK singer Emelie Sandé, Irish singer Ronan Keating, and Romanian Eurovision star Paula Seling. Romania’s Eurovision 2019 singer Ester Peony performed a medley called “Music Unites Us All” along with Romania’s national final televote favourite Laura Bretan and Golden Stag 2018 runner-up Olivier Kaye.

The return of the Golden Stag

The festival was born 50 years ago, in 1968. Loosely inspired by Eurovision  — which Romania was not a part of until 1994 — the Golden Stag quickly became the most important music competition in Eastern Europe. It also attracted young talents from the West, most notably Julio Iglesias. Ever since its inception, the festival has been taken place in the Transylvanian city of Brasov, which also hosted the Selectia Nationala final in 2014.

The Golden Stag has been running from 1968 to 1971, then from 1992 to 1997, from 2001 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2009. The festival was revived again last year, where Albanian singer Inis Neziri took the top prize.

Golden Stag 2019 – competing artists

  • Alfie Arcuri (Australia, national final 2019)
  • Anna Odobescu (Moldova, ESC 2019)
  • Cynthia Verazie (Cyprus)
  • Eliza G (Italy)
  • Florin Raduta (Romania)
  • Monika Marija (Lithuania, national final 2019)
  • Ralfs Eilands (Latvia, PeR, ESC 2013)
  • Renate (Romania)
  • Sara de Blue (Austria, San Marino national final 2018)
  • Syuzanna Melqonyan (Armenia, national final 2017)
  • Tamara (Georgia, ESC 2017)
  • Veronica Liberati (Italy)

What do you think? Would you like any of the Golden Stag stars to represent their country at Eurovision? Tell us your thoughts below!

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4 years ago

In the 1997 edition Christina Aguilera, only 16 years old at that time, competed for the prize in the Golden Stag Contest. She did not get the audience or the jury’s attention.

4 years ago
Reply to  Lucian
4 years ago

San Marino – keep your eyes on Eliza G.

4 years ago

So nice article, thank you, I enjoyed Golden Stag, just one thing to say : just like Eurovision itself, G.Stag was inspired by Sanremo. It seems that everything in European music comes from Sanremo. Happy that Italy won, deserving winner, just like Albania last year.

4 years ago
Reply to  romanian

Yes, she was perfect. Real, talented musicians, learn easily lyrics in a foreign language. I guess this is the point of this challenge, not…let’s have fun hearing them speak Romanian.