Press Release – Lexus Song Quest
The six finalists for the 2014 Lexus Song Quest were named today. They are Bianca Andrew (mezzo soprano – 24), Edward Laurenson (baritone – 25), Isabella Moore (soprano – 23), Oliver Sewell (tenor – 24), Christian Thurston (baritone – 22) and Benson Wilson (baritone – 23).
The Song Quest is shaping up to be a battle of two cities with Aucklanders Benson, Edward, Isabella up against Bianca, Oliver and Christian, who are currently living in Wellington. Oliver is originally from Christchurch while Christian’s hometown is Rotorua.
A winner will be chosen at the Lexus Song Quest Grand Final on Saturday 26 July at the Auckland Town Hall. Tickets are on sale from Monday 16 June.
Preliminary judges Rodney Macann and Roxane Hislop selected the six finalists after first narrowing down the entries to 12 semi-finalists. Mr Macann said that selecting the 12 semi-finalists was a difficult job and that the Grand Final selection was even tougher.
“Because the second stage involves listening to recordings we had ample opportunity to assess who should go through. It was still hard because we had to make choices which meant very promising singers would miss out.”
Mr Macann said that in the end the two judges were clear about the final group and voice potential was a big factor. “We have six very strong finalists, any of whom could take away major prizes. It will be a wonderful Grand Final with a mix of great voices and high performing charisma.”
The Lexus Song Quest has launched the careers of some of New Zealand’s most celebrated opera stars including Dames Kiri Te Kanawa and Malvina Major, Jonathan Lemalu, Madeleine Pierard and Phillip Rhodes. Now studying in a prestigious UK opera school, 2012 winner Amitai Pati is one third of the hugely successful trio Sol3 Mio, whose debut record went platinum and bested Lorde by becoming New Zealand’s biggest selling album of 2013.
All semi-finalists recorded a programme of four arias or songs which have aired on Radio New Zealand Concert. Listeners can vote for their favourite for the Radio New Zealand Concert Lexus Song Quest Listeners’ Choice Award – an award which was won by 2014 finalist Isabella Moore in 2012.
The winner of the Lexus Song Quest 2014 will be decided at the Grand Final – considered one of the most exciting nights in the classical music calendar. The singers perform alongside the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Emmanuel Joel Hornak, and pianist Terence Dennis.
Acclaimed British soprano, voice teacher and coach Kathryn Harries will judge the final concert.
All finalists will receive coveted prizes. The Grand Final winner receives a career-defining Study Scholarship of $15,000, cash prize of $10,000, plus a return economy international airfare.
Following the Grand Final, the winner and the second and third placegetters will perform a recital concert, accompanied by Terence Dennis, in Wellington on Tuesday 29 July. Tickets go on sale on Monday 16 June.
The Lexus Song Quest programme also includes a Masterclass Series that is free to the public. The masterclasses will be held in Auckland on Monday 28 July, Wellington on Wednesday 30 July, in Dunedin on Thursday 31 July 2014) and in Christchurch on Friday 1 August.
The Lexus Song Quest is managed and presented by the New Zealand Festival with significant support from the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation for the presentation of the masterclasses and The Dame Malvina Major Foundation who support the second prize of the competition.