Hometown: Havelock North
Benson Wilson is the second place-getter at the the 2014 Lexus Song Quest. The second prize is supported by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation.
Benson Wilson is in his final year studying for a Bachelor of Music (Vocal Performance) at the University of Auckland. Last year he was awarded the University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor’s Cultural Grant. After graduating he plans to continue his study in Europe. Benson has been a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir and last year toured with the choir to Canada and the United States. He is a member of New Zealand Opera’s Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus for 2014. Benson’s ultimate dream is to open a music academy in south Auckland to nurture musical talent in secondary school students.
Voice: Mezzo Soprano
Bianca Andrew will soon be studying towards a Master of Music (Voice) at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Yvonne Kenny. She was a Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist in 2013, holds a Bachelor of Music (2010) and Post-Graduate Diploma of Music (2011) from the New Zealand School of Music, where she studied with Margaret Medlyn. In 2013 she sang the role of Kate Pinkerton in the New Zealand Opera’s season of Madame Butterfly. Bianca discovered opera by accident when, aged 16, she heard the love duet from Madame Butterfly. “All I could do was cry, it was so beautiful. From that day I knew classical music had to be my world.” Bianca was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Lexus Song Quest.
Christian Thurston is the third place-getter at the 2014 Lexus Song Quest.
Since completing his Bachelor of Music (Classical Performance – Voice) Christian Thurston has been undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma (Classical Performance – Voice) at the New Zealand School of Music studying with Richard Greager and Margaret Medlyn. Christian holds an ATCL Performing with Distinction and Certificate of Special Merit from Trinity College Guildhall London. He was the 2009 National Young Performer of the Year for Acting. He has performed solo roles in a number of operas, musical theatre, concerts, oratorios and recitals. In his spare time he is an avid rugby player and cricketer.
Edward Laurenson was a 2012-13 Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist. He made his operatic debut in the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus for New Zealand Opera’s Eugene Onegin in 2009 and has since performed in the company’s seasons of Rigoletto, The Bartered Bride, Madame Butterfly and Don Giovanni. In 2012 he was awarded Vocal National Young Performer of the Year by the Performing Arts Competitions Association of New Zealand (PACANZ), and the Lieder prize at the New Zealand Aria competition. Edward comes to opera through musical theatre and has performed lead roles in The Sound of Music,West Side Story and Grease.
Isabella Moore is the winner of the 2014 Lexus Song Quest.
Isabella Moore is a New Zealand-born Samoan soprano, who discovered her love of singing at an early age. She holds a Bachelor of Music and Postgraduate Diploma in Voice Performance from the New Zealand School of Music. Isabella is now studying Advanced Vocal Performance at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the tutelage of Dennis O’Neill and Nuccia Focile. Isabella was a finalist in the Royal Over-Seas League Vocal competition this year in London and received an international competitors award. In 2013, she won numerous regional singing competitions and received the Dame Malvina Major Wellington Regional Arts Excellence Award. Isabella was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Lexus Song Quest and won the Radio New Zealand Lexus Song Quest Listeners Choice Award.
Oliver Sewell holds a Bachelor of Music (Voice Performance) from the University of Canterbury and a Postgraduate Diploma of Music (Voice Performance) from the New Zealand School of Music. He has sung with a range of choirs in New Zealand and is a recipient of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Arts Excellence Award, an NZSM postgraduate study scholarship, the Rotary Club of Wellington Postgraduate Award for 2013 and an ABRSM Exhibition Award. Oliver is currently a 2013/14 Freemasons Dame Malvina Major Foundation Emerging Artist and will commence his studies towards a Masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music in October.
Voice: Mezzo Soprano
Wellington based mezzo-soprano Christie Cook completed a Bachelor of Music (Hons) Performance Voice in 2011 with Isabel Cunningham while studying performance piano with Professor Terence Dennis at the University of Otago. She has been active as a recitalist and oratorio singer and last September won both the Wellington and Dunedin Aria Competitions. She was recently awarded the prestigious Dame Sister Mary Leo Scholarship. Recent engagements include appearing as a soloist in Whaka Aria Mai as part of Auckland Arts Festival, soloist in Poulenc’s Le Bal Masqué with Auckland Chamber Orchestra and performances with Days Bay Opera Wellington, Bach Musica, Napier Civic Choir and Orchestra, Opera Studio and Opera Factory. Christie is training with Flora Edwards until September, when she begins studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the direction of Dennis O’Neill
Voice: Mezzo Soprano
Hometown: Palmerston North
New Zealand-born Samoan Elisha Hulton’s early musical foundation was with her local Samoan church choir and cultural groups and this spiritual connection with music is what drives her passion to sing. She is currently studying for her Masters degree at the University of Waikato, having previously attained a Bachelor of Music and Postgraduate Diploma from the University of Auckland. In addition to regular oratorio performances and tours with Operatunity, Elisha sung the role of Delphina and was understudy for the role of Te Rai in Jenny McCleod’s Hohepa with the New Zealand Opera. Previous competition successes have included numerous scholarships and third place in the New Zealand Aria competition in 2011.
This year’s winner of the Lexus Song Quest Radio NZ Concert’s Listeners’ Choice award, Madison is currently working towards an Honours Degree in Music at the University of Auckland majoring in voice performance. After completing her degree she plans to travel to Europe for further study. Madison has won numerous scholarships and awards and has been a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir for four years. In 2013 she was named Waikato Young Singer of the Year. She regularly performs in Opera Factory productions as a soloist. From a young age Madison has aspired to be an operatic singer and this dream has been inspired and nurtured by her late Samoan grandmother as well as her European grandparents. Her first experience with opera was as a nine-year old when she was selected to be in the Children’s Chorus for the Opera Waikato’s production of Bizet’s Carmen.
Polly Ott was a Lexus Song Quest finalist in 2009 and a semi-finalist in 2012. She gained a Bachelor of Music (Performance Voice) from the University of Canterbury before commencing study towards a Master of Arts at the Universität der Künste Berlin. She was an Emerging Artist in New Zealand Opera’s young artist programme for 2009/10 and has performed in Germany, England, Italy and France. Polly’s singing journey began at Burnside High School where she was in the Specialist Music Programme for vocal studies, but it was after meeting Dame Malvina Major at university that she became inspired to become an opera singer.
Kieran Rayner (PGDipMus BMus BA) graduated from the NZ School of Music and Victoria University in 2011. He was an Emerging Artist with New Zealand Opera 2012-13, and won the prestigious Circle 100 Scholarship 2013. He has been singing opera and oratorio professionally in New Zealand and beyond for more than five years, and has performed in an eclectic range of other styles, including Music Hall, Shakespeare, tap and period dance. In July he will play Marchese D’Obigny in NZ Opera’s La Traviata (Wellington). This September, Kieran will begin a Masters of Performance in Voice at the Royal College of Music in London.
Hometown: Matakana, Auckland
Julien Van Mellaerts
Julien Van Mellaerts is studying at the Royal College of Music as a Janet Bolton O’Sullivan Scholar supported by a Laing Award. He holds a Masters of Music (Performance Voice), a Bachelor of Music (Hons) and a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Otago. During the past year in London Julien has performed several roles with the Benjamin Britten International Opera School including the lead baritone in the world première of The Bet by Algirdas Kraunaitis. He will be singing Guglielmo in Così Fan Tutte in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August this year. Julien is interested in languages and speaks fluent French as well as Spanish, German and some Arabic.
LEXUS SONG QUEST
On our journey to find the voices of tomorrow, Lexus Song Quest has discovered the great singers of today. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Jonathan Lemalu – they are all previous Lexus Song Quest winners who now grace the opera stages of the world.
Soprano Isabella Moore was named winner of the Lexus Song Quest at the live Grand Final on Saturday 26 July. Second place was awarded to baritone Benson Wilson and third place to Christian Thurston.
The prize winners will all perform at a special Wellington Recital at the Opera House on Tuesday 29 July at 7.30pm. Tickets are on sale now.
Amitai Pati (left) wins 2012 Lexus Song Quest with Stephen Diaz (right) taking third place.
The Lexus Song Quest prize-winners will receive both a cash prize and a Lexus Study Scholarship
Will receive an immediate cash prize of $10,000 net and a Study Scholarship of $15,000, plus a return economy international airfare.
Will receive an immediate cash prize of $8,000 net supported by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation and a Study Scholarship of $10,000.
Will receive an immediate cash prize of $5,000 net and a Study Scholarship of $5,000.
26 July 2014
The grand final of the 2014 Lexus Song Quest will take place at the Auckland Town Hall...MORE
LEXUS RECITAL CONCERT
29 July 2014
As part of the Lexus Song Quest prize package, the first, second and third prize-winners...MORE
LEXUS SONG QUEST MASTERCLASSES
28 July - 1 August 2014
Lexus is committed to New Zealand singers and their teachers. As part of this long-standing...MORE
PREVIOUS QUEST WINNER
“It’s unbelievable. I know a few of the guys that have won the competition and to join them is an absolute honour. Coming from such humble beginnings to this makes me incredibly happy.”