The Eurovision Song Contest will begin in earnest tonight as 17 international acts take to the stage in Israel for the first live semi-final.

The first of two semi-finals at the Expo Tel Aviv venue will determine which 10 countries appear in the 26-strong grand final on Saturday.

UK in the Eurovision Song Contest final
(PA Graphics)

Three favourites are due to appear: Australia’s operatic pop star Kate Miller-Heidke, Iceland’s fetish-punk group Hatari and Finland’s Darude, a dance music veteran known for his 2000 track Sandstorm.

Iceland’s Hatari rehearse for the first semi-final (Thomas Hanses)

The public vote will make up 50% of the total vote, with the other half determined by a professional jury in each participating country.

All countries taking part in the semi-finals can vote along with France, Spain and host country Israel.

Fans can vote over the phone, by text or via the Eurovision app, available on iOS, Android and Windows devices.

UK residents, however, can not vote in this round and should save their votes for the 18-act second semi-final on Thursday May 16 and the grand final on Saturday May 18, where the UK’s entry Michael Rice will perform during the second half.

The UK, as one of the “Big Five” countries, along with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are already assured of a place in the grand final. Last year’s winners Israel also do not have to qualify via the semi-finals.

Rylan Clark-Neal and Scott Mills will oversee BBC Four’s coverage from 8pm (BST), with 21-year-old Rice joining the pair.

First semi-final running order:

1. Cyprus – Tamta with Replay
2. Montenegro – D Mol with Heaven
3. Finland – Darude ft. Sebastian Rejman with Look Away
4. Poland – Tulia with Fire Of Love (Pali Sie)
5. Slovenia – Zala Kralj and Gasper Santl with Sebi
6. Czech Republic – Lake Malawi with Friend Of A Friend
7. Hungary – Joci Papai with Az En Apam
8. Belarus – Zena with Like It
9. Serbia – Nevena Bozovic with Kruna
10. Belgium – Eliot with Wake Up
11. Georgia – Oto Nemsadze with Keep On Going
12. Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke with Zero Gravity
13. Iceland – Hatari – Hatrio Mun Sigra
14. Estonia – Victor Crone with Storm
15. Portugal – Conan Osiris with Telemoveis
16. Greece – Katerine Duska with Better Love
17. San Marino – Serhat with Say Na Na Na