Eurovision grand final begins in Tel Aviv

Kate Miller-Heidke's soaring performance has made her one of the favourites to win Eurovision.
Kate Miller-Heidke's soaring performance has made her one of the favourites to win Eurovision.

The reigning Eurovision Song Contest queen Netta Barzilai has opened the grand final in Tel Aviv with a video showing her flying in on an aeroplane before she appeared on stage.

Following Barzilai's entrance, the contest's 26 finalists were introduced, and former Israeli contestants, including Dana International, put on brief performances.

The final is hosted by supermodel Bar Refaeli, broadcaster Erez Tal and television hosts Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub.

Malta's Michela Pace was the first of the contestants to take the stage late on Saturday (0500 AEST Sunday) with her dance pop song Chameleon.

The Netherlands' Duncan Laurence remained the firm favourite to win the competition, according to bookmakers.

Betting odds have put Laurence in first place with his love Ballad Arcade followed by Australia's Kate Miller-Heidke with her operatic Zero Gravity.

Brisbane singer-songwriter Miller-Heidke stunned with a spectacular stage show, wearing a full ball gown while perched atop a moving pole.

Twenty-six of the 41 acts that initially entered the competition are competing in the grand final. The finalists include 20 performers that passed the first and second semi-finals; the so-called "Big Five" acts from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain; and performers from host country Israel, who automatically pre-qualified for the final.

The "Big Five" acts come from countries that make the biggest financial contributions to the European Broadcasting Union.

Madonna will perform as a guest star during the show, which will also feature performances by Netta, former winners Dana International, Conchita Wurst and Mans Zelmerlow, as well as Eurovision icon Verka Serduchka.

Viewers can vote for their favourite songs if they are in one of the 41 countries which participated, but they cannot vote for the country from which they are voting.

This means people in Australia can't vote for Miller-Heidke.

A jury of music professionals also cast their votes, constituting the other 50 per cent of the vote.

Australian Associated Press