UPDATED: Madonna’s much-publicized performance at this weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest could be in question after the show’s organizers revealed that no contract has yet been signed. The news comes despite the music legend’s scheduled arrival in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning aboard the private jet of Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams.
Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday night, Eurovision’s executive supervisor, Jon Ola Sand, who has produced the show since 2010, said: “The European Broadcasting Union has never confirmed Madonna as an act. We don’t have a signed contract with her team, and if we do not have a signed contract, she cannot perform on our stage.”
“The EBU can confirm that no final decisions have been made, or agreements signed, regarding a performance by Madonna at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019. Any official news and updates will come directly from the Eurovision channels in due course,” said the organization’s senior communications officer, Dave Goodman.
Sand did not say what issues were delaying the signing of a contract, but confirmed that negotiations were in a “final stage.” He added that the broadcasting union remained keen to welcome the singer to the Eurovision stage, but suggested that the performance, scheduled for Saturday’s final, could still fail to happen.
“People have spoken on behalf of the EBU, for many months now, without it being authorized,” said Sand. “We are in a situation now that is a bit strange. We have an artist who would like to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, and who we would love to welcome on that stage, but for that we need to have the framework secured. If there is no signed contract this week, she will not be on the stage.”
Madonna’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest broadcast was originally announced by her publicists in April. She is expected to perform two songs during the show’s interval, including one track from her new “Madame X” album.
Some pro-Palestinian activists have called for performers and international broadcasters to boycott the show due to Israel being the host nation. On Tuesday, Madonna addressed the controversy, telling Reuters she would “never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda, nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be.”
“My heart breaks every time I hear about the innocent lives that are lost in this region and the violence that is so often perpetuated to suit the political goals of people who benefit from this ancient conflict,” the singer said. “I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace.”
Her statement echoed a statement released late last month by entertainment industry nonprofit Creative Community for Peace in support of the event, which was signed by more than 100 entertainment executives and personalities, including Sharon Osborne, Gene Simmons, Scooter Braun and Allison Kaye. The statement said: “The members of the entertainment industry who have signed this statement, along with the thousands of individuals who have endorsed its message, all believe in building bridges through music and the arts as a means to achieving greater understanding and peace in the region.”
Tel Aviv was confirmed as the host city for this year’s 64th Eurovision Song Contest last September. Eurovision tradition holds that the winning nation hosts the following year’s event. Last year’s winner was Israeli entrant Netta Barzilai with the song “Toy,” which went on to top the Billboard dance club chart in the U.S. in August, a first for an Israeli singer. It is the third time that Israel has hosted the competition but the first time it has taken place in Tel Aviv, where it will be broadcast around the world from the Expo Tel Aviv International Convention Center.
Eurovision has become a much-loved annual event across Europe since it began in 1956 with just seven countries participating. Since then, 52 countries have taken part with the competition growing beyond Europe, even including Australia since 2015.
The live show is watched by about 200 million viewers worldwide. Each country submits an original song that is performed live on the show. After all songs have been performed, viewers in each country can then vote for their favorites, excluding the song from their own nation, with points awarded by ranking. The country with the most points is declared the winner. In 2008, the format was extended to include two semifinal shows, held on the Tuesday and Thursday prior to the final – which traditionally takes place on a Saturday – as the number of participating countries had swelled to preclude featuring every entrant in a single show.