Spain’s beloved musical reality show Operación Triunfo is celebrating 20 years since its doors first opened. Beyond discovering hot new musical talent, the show has also had a close relationship with Eurovision.
Rosa López (ESC 2002) claimed victory in the first edition of the show in 2002. Critics had questioned whether the show would succeed. Boy did it. The finale was watched by 12.5 million viewers.
Ever since that first season, Operación Triunfo has unleashed waves of hype with each of its 11 subsequent editions. It gave birth to stars such as David Bisbal, Aitana and Lola Indigo, and rightly established its place in the history of Spanish television.
Most importantly for us, Operación Triunfo helped the country fall in love with Eurovision again. The year Rosa López participated, RTVE’s Eurovision broadcast drew 12.8 million viewers — Spain’s best-ever ratings for the song contest.
The two decades passed fast, and RTVE organised a proper celebration for the special anniversary. In a live stream running 24-hours from Friday, RTVE covered all the editions, invited former contestants to walk down memory lane and even revisited fan favourite performances. Operación Triunfo may have stopped for now, but a return in 2022 seems to be on the table.
To date, eight Operación Triunfo contestants have represented Spain and neighbouring Andorra at Eurovision. Some went directly through the programme, others got the Eurovision gig in later years. From Rosa López to Miki Nuñez, let’s unleash that Operación Triunfo realness and see who your favourite act is. You can vote for as many acts as you’d like, but you can only submit your votes ONE time. So make it count!
Eurovision 2002: Rosa López – “Europe’s Living a Celebration”
Rosa’s pop disco fever “Europe’s Living a Celebration” was a turning point for Spain regarding the popularity of Eurovision. Rosa still holds the record for most-watched Eurovision edition in Spain’s history.
Joined on stage by her Operación Triunfo colleagues — David Bisbal, David Bustamante, Chenoa, Gisela and Geno — Rosa had the time of her life while dancing amid flashing multi-coloured disco lights. With her energy, Rosa brought Spain its second top-ten placing since the turn of the century. Her performance involved rhythm and dancing and some difficult choreography. In a documentary that RTVE aired in 2016, Spain’s Eurovision 2002 crew reflected on the difficulty in remembering all the steps. David Bustamante recounted that there was wine, ham and cheese on the Spanish table in the Green Room, and that they really let themselves go. Geno recently claimed that her mistake in one of her spins was due to her dyslexia. Tackling the problems associated with that, she says, has only made her stronger.
Eurovision 2003: Beth – “Dime” (Tell me)
The great ratings Rosa managed in 2002 inspired RTVE to continue with Operación Triunfo as their selection process. In 2003, Beth Rodregas was selected in a separate voting process to represent Spain in Riga, despite finishing third in Operación Triunfo. Her performance was filled with energy and her delivery granted Spain another top 10 spot. She even won the Marcel Bezençon Fan Award.
Eurovision 2004: Ramon – “Para Llenarme de Ti” (To get filled with you)
Ramón ended the streak of Spain of using Operación Triunfo as the selection process. With a song with proper Latin flavours, Spain claimed another top-ten placing while obtaining the most number of votes of all their 2000s entries. The hook of this song kept it going in Spain, as it stayed on the Spanish charts for nine weeks. Despite his passion for music, Ramón has been living in Norway since 2013 where he works as an AV producer.
Eurovision 2008: Gisela – “Casanova”
Just six years after joining Rosa López in 2002, Gisela became the first — and to date only — Operación Triunfo contestant to represent Andorra. Her song “Casanova” is the first Andorran entry entirely in English. It failed to qualify for the grand final. Nevertheless, Gisela’s musical career did not stop. She became the voice of Elsa in the Catalan and Castilian Spanish versions of Frozen, which granted her a featured performance in the Oscars in 2020. She is the first and so far only Spanish artist to have ever performed live at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Eurovision 2009: Soraya Arnelas – “La Noche Es Para Mí” (The Night is Mine)
Soraya Arnelas also jumped from Operación Triunfo to Eurovision, after winning Spain’s selection process “Eurovision 2009: el retorno.” From her magic trick to her spins, it surely didn’t leave anyone indifferent. Despite the fresh sound of her song, Soraya scored the lowest of any Spanish act since 1999, finishing next-to-last. Her journey to Eurovision was far from easy, and filled with drama. Soraya has claimed more than once that RTVE imposed the choreography on her, and that she had little input into her dress. At the same time, she insisted that Eurovision should take greater priority at RTVE, and pushed for change within its Eurovision ranks. Her wishes might have come true. Recently, Spain changed the selection process, and part of its team for Eurovision.
Eurovision 2015: Edurne – “Amanecer” (Breaking Dawn)
Edurne remains the only Operación Triunfo act internally selected to represent Spain at Eurovision. In 2015 — 10 years since she first entered Operación Triunfo — Edurne went to Eurovision with a song composed by some big names. They were Tony Sánchez-Ohlsson (Spain’s 2012 composer), Peter Boström and Thomas G:son (Sweden’s 2012 composers). However, that was not enough. Edurne only managed a 21st place at Eurovision. Edurne’s result remains Spain’s best since 2015.
Eurovision 2018: Amaia & Alfred – “Tu Canción” (Your Song)
In 2017, Operación Triunfo returned to Spanish TV after six years. Improved ratings and massive fan interaction motivated RTVE to use Operación Triunfo as its Eurovision selection and to dream of better results. Unfortunately Amaia and Alfred’s romantic ballad, with its minimalistic staging, did not change the course. Their 23rd placing in Lisbon added yet another bottom-five placing.
Eurovision 2019: Miki Nuñez – “La Venda (The Blindfold)”
Miki Nuñez is the last Operación Triunfo contestant to step on the big Eurovision stage. With a song loaded with a fiesta spirit and Mediterranean vibes, Miki Nuñez had the time of his life with the audience. Explosions of rhythm and colour characterised his performance that did well with the televote, but which failed to impress juries. Miki Nuñez placed 22nd, which kept Spain in the bottom five once more. Despite his result, Miki placed 14th in the televote.
Poll: What’s your favourite Eurovision performance from an Operación Triunfo star?
Now it’s time for you to decide which Eurovision performance from an Operación Triunfo contestant is the best. You can vote for as many acts as you’d like, but you can only submit your votes once.