The annual competition to choose the Croatia
n representative for the Eurovision Song Contest
. Few entrants go to as much trouble as the Croatians, whose national final
is an event on the Croatian pop
calendar in its own right and one of the most elaborate staging-posts in the run-up to Eurovision.
With no official singles chart
, music promotion in Croatia depends on airplay
, backed up by a year-round array of festivals of which the Dora - always on a Sunday in early March - is among the earliest. The largest of these events feature up to 50 songs over two or three nights; Dora line-ups are anywhere between 20 and 26 strong, but have still been known to be larger than the Eurovisions they select for.
The first Dora took place in 1993
, the first year Croatia was eligible to take part in Eurovision. The country has competed every year thereafter, avoiding the relegation
introduced for low-scoring countries since the former Eastern bloc
countries began to participate. Unlike them, Croatia's Eurovision experience dates back to 1963
when Vice Vukov
supplied the republic's first entry for Yugoslavia
, winning the Jugovizija
competition to which the Dora is a successor.
The Dora has traditionally been held in the old Austro-Hungarian
resort of Opatija
, on the Adriatic
coast, taking over the Hotel Kvarner
's elegant Crystal Ballroom
for the weekend. More recently, it has moved to a television studio in the capital Zagreb
, but returns to Opatija for 2003, when it will stretch over three nights and be intermingled with Croatia's national music awards and the Miss Croatia
Throughout the 1990s, the Dora was organised by HRT
's Head of Light Entertainment, Ksenija Urličić
, notoriously implicated in the Miss Croatia scandal of 1998
. Just as synonymous with the festival was the impresario
and manager Tonči Huljić
, who has provided the classical girlband Bond
with a number of songs.
Huljić's own band Magazin
, veterans of the Yugoslavian and Croatian pop scenes since 1983
, have six Dora appearances under their belt, and were joined by at least a couple of their labelmates from his record company Tonika
every year. Huljić and his lyricist wife Vjekoslava
, who used to write children's books instead
, supplied four of Croatia's ten Eurovision entries, more than any other songwriting team.
However, he appears to have abandoned the Dora after refusing to prune Magazin's four-and-a-half-minute 2002
entry to the three-minute maximum imposed by the European Broadcasting Union
, responsible for Eurovision, to avoid the thing going on for five hours. And we can't be having that.
Indeed, hardly a Dora goes past without a whiff of scandal. In 1999 Ivana Banfić
alleged that her entry had been thrown out of consideration because it would interfere with pop legend Doris Dragović
's chances of winning; she made it through two years later, only to pull out at the last minute because she was not allowed to perform in English. The eventual winner, Vanna
, duly burst into English after the middle eight
For several years, Dora entries also had to be submitted under (occasionally transparent) pseudonyms, a rule which saw 1996
winner Maja Blagdan
disqualified in 2001
when she revealed to the press too early that she would be singing her song. The requirement was abolished for 2003, as has the prohibition on so-called debutant
s, restricting the Dora to artists who had already released at least one CD.
The debutants ban was intended to attract a higher class of star to the Dora after the 2000
final ended up composed mostly of unknown singers, but instead threatened to turn the festival into the Grand Central Station
of Croatia's comeback trail
2003 also saw the Dora spread over a whole weekend with two preliminary semi-finals, as HRT attempted to cut the cost of one of their flagship
events by running it together with the annual Porin
music awards and Croatia's choice of a contestant for Miss Universe
. In common with a number of other national preselections, the winner was to be decided entirely by a public televote
In the hope of provoking some press coverage for what was coming to be seen as a rather tired old festival, the line-up of 24 included a ska-punk band, Kawasaki 3P
, who recouped the desired headlines but didn't particularly trouble the scoreboard
Dora winners to date:
- 1993: Put, with Don't ever cry. An offshoot of the Putokazi choir from
Rijeka. 15th place at Eurovision; 31 points.
- 1994: Toni Cetinski, with Nek' ti bude ljubav sva. His
backing singers subsequently broke off and became a girl band called Divas. 16th place; 27 points.
- 1995: Magazin, with the schmaltzy Nostalgija, a duet with
the opera singer Lidija Horvat Dunjko. 6th place; 91 points.
- 1996: Maja Blagdan screeched her way through Sveta ljubav and
won Croatia 4th place, still a record. 98 points.
- 1997: ENI, with Probudi me. More Putokazi
graduates, ENI were Croatia's garishly-dressed answer to the Spice Girls, a
formula which left Eurovision juries baffled. 17th place; 24 points. They won't risk that one again.
- 1998: Danijela Martinović, the lead singer of Magazin in
1995, opening that year's Eurovision with Neka mi ne svane. To
get things off to a good start, Danijela whipped off her Scottish Widows cloak
after the first verse, but nobody was going to out-diva Dana International. 5th place; 131 points.
- 1999: Doris Dragović, with Marija Magdalena,
a rather similar song to last year's Israeli winner which risked
disqualification for synthesising Doris' backing vocalists. Her performance
continued what had become a tradition of Croatian striptease, as Doris
divested herself of a toga to reveal a dress supposedly inspired by The
Fifth Element. 4th place; 118 points.
- 2000: Goran Karan, surely the world's only long-haired Hari
Krishna, with Ostani - chiefly remembered for a stage act consisting
entirely of a female dancer attempting to extricate herself from what seemed to
be a duvet cover. 9th place; 70 points.
- 2001: Vanna, the Croatian Anastacia, with Strings of my
heart, a disco-retro number reminding many of the theme to The Love
Boat. The last Eurovision appearance for the Huljić clan, who had
intended Bond to appear on stage with (heavily pregnant) Vanna, only to find
they were otherwise engaged in Australia. 10th place; 42 points.
- 2002: Vesna Pisarović, the requisite Britney-a-like, with the sultry Everything I want. Striptease is apparently passé; writhing around on stage with a whip made out of silk apparently isn't. 11th place; 44 points.
- 2003: Claudia, a seventeen-year-old from Rijeka, with Više nisam tvoja - certain to be performed at Eurovision in its English version, and a near-carbon copy of Vesna's winner in 2002.