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Armenia’s entry has earned the right to sing in the final of a popular annual pan-European song contest, raising hopes among local fans for a coveted top prize this year.

Russian-Armenian singer Eva Rivas (born Valeria Reshetnikova-Tsaturian) performed an English-language song, “Apricot Stone”, during a Eurovision show in Norwegian capital Oslo Thursday night. Famous Armenian maestro Jivan Gasparian accompanied her in the three-minute performance, playing the duduk. Rivas's song was about ties to the Motherland symbolized by an apricot pit.

The 22-year-old native of Rostov-na-Donu in southern Russia was one of 10 out of 17 participants of the contest's second semifinal voted by the audiences and experts into the final. The other winning entries of the day included Azerbaijan’s Safura, Georgia’s Sofia Nizharadze and Turkish rock band maNga.

Armenia - Eva Rivas and Jivan Gasparian during the dress rehearsal of the Eurovision song contest in Oslo
One of bookmaker favorites, Rivas, will now compete in the grand finale scheduled for Saturday against 24 contestants, including representatives of the Eurovision founding nations, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, and host Norway. The ultimate winner, as in the case with the semifinals, will be decided through a combination of a telephone-based public voting and a jury vote.

People in Yerevan approached by RFE/RL on Friday were optimistic about Rivas’s chances to secure the first win for the country at Eurovision. Most said they liked her Thursday performance and praised the combination of the singer’s voice, looks and song.

“This wasn’t a diva style performance, but was a simple show, wild beauty,” popular Armenian singer Shushan Petrosian told RFE/RL. “She [Rivas] was singing very emotionally and was free in her movements on the stage. Even her coarse voice sounded natural.”

Petrosian said she liked the Ukrainian entry most, but stopped short of making predictions for the final.

Armenia’s leading blogger writing about the local showbiz Kamo Tovmasian told RFE/RL he was impressed by Rivas’s performance which he said deserved a victory this year. “Hers was one of the best performances… Forecasts for an Armenia win had also been made before. So, I think one simply has to wait and see,” he said.

“I don’t think that the main competition will be between Eva [Rivas] and Safura. Azerbaijan’s show is not that strong,” Tovmasian added.

Armenia, which participates in the annual contest for the fifth time, has traditionally enjoyed strong support from the televoting public not least due to the presence of Armenian communities in European countries. The nation’s best Eurovision result so far was in 2008 when singer Sirusho finished fourth.

Last year, Azerbaijani citizens who had voted for the Armenian song in the Eurovision contest, were called to the Security Ministry to explain their vote after the national telecommunications company offered its phone records to the authorities. That led to an investigation by Eurovision officials and eventual rule changes concerning telephone records.



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