Lexus Song Quest
7:30pm Thursday 30 August - The Final
Finalists accompanied by Terence Dennis (pno) and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Oliver von Dohnanyi
Dennis O’Neill (adjudicator)
Live from Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre.
The six competitors that will sing in the 2012 Grand Final on Thursday 30 August in Wellington are:
- Stephen Diaz
- Grace Park
- Amitai Pati
- Kawiti Waetford
- Bryony Williams
- Alexander Wilson
Meet the Semi-Finalists
Preliminary Judges Rodney Macann & Sharolyn Kimmorley were stunned by the wealth of young talent in this year’s competition.The initial auditions indicated a remarkably youthful and diverse field. All of the semi-final singers are 26 years old and under and there is a particularly strong Māori and Pacific Island representation. For the first time in the contest’s 56-year history, a countertenor, 24 year old Stephen Diaz, has made it to the semi-finals.
Resident: Currently Florence! Soon to be Manchester, UK
Hometown: New Plymouth, NZ
Bryony Williams studied at the New Zealand School of Music under the tutelage of Jenny Wollerman, completing a Bachelor of Music in Classical Performance Voice in 2010 and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Classical Performance Voice with Distinction in 2011. Alongside her study Bryony has performed in the chorus for two NBR New Zealand Opera productions and competed in the 2011 IFAC Australian Singing Competition held at the Sydney Opera House where she was a finalist. From this she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester for 2012/2013 and a scholarship to study the Italian language in Florence, which she is currently undertaking.
Hometown: North Shore City
Moses Mackay is a graduate of the University of Auckland where he obtained a Bachelor of Music Performance. His first taste of singing was at The Big Sing in 2007. From here he went to make his first operatic debut at 19 with the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus in the NBR New Zealand Opera’s performance of The Marriage of Figaro. Representing North Harbour in Rugby and Athletics, in 2010 his hopes of a sporting career were ended when he suffered a serious knee injury. Since then Moses has concentrated solely on his singing ability and has performed a number of roles with the NBR New Zealand Opera, sung the national anthem at the final of the RWC 2011 with the NZ Choral Foundation and appeared on stage with George Benson, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Andrea Bocelli. Moses is a 2011/2012 PWC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist.
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea (but I would call Auckland my home, since I grew up there from the age of 4)
Grace Park is currently studying classical voice under the tutelage of Isabel Cunningham at the University of Otago, working towards a Bachelor of Music with Honours. Grace credits the development of her musicianship to being a member of the award-winning Key Cygnetures of Westlake Girls High School with whom she has travelled from Copenhagen to Vienna, Budapest to Singapore. Grace is also an active composer and was the national winner of the New Zealand Choral Federation and SOUNZ Big Sing Student Composition Competition and SOUNZ Finalist of The Trust’s Secondary Students Composition Competition, both in 2009. Grace will perform her first opera role of Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in 2012 with Opera Otago.
Alex Wilson is currently a fourth year student at the University of Otago where he is completing a Bachelor of Science majoring in geology and a Bachelor of Music majoring in classical performance voice under the direction of Judy Bellingham. Alex sang his first opera at age 14, as a chorus member in NBR New Zealand Opera’s production of Puccini’s Tosca. Last year, Alex won the Dunedin Musical Society prize and was presented with the Judges Choice Award at the Otago Daily Times Aria competition. Alex is a current Dunedin RSA choral scholar and the Convenor of the Otago University capping sextet, an historic a capella ensemble that has been active for over one hundred years. Alex plans to graduate at the end of the year and to move overseas to pursue his career.
Voice: Mezzo soprano
Resident: Eastbourne, Wellington
Bianca Andrew is a graduate of the New Zealand School of Music having completed a Bachelor of Music in 2010 and a Postgraduate Diploma of Music with Distinction in 2011. Bianca has a passion for French language, poetry and music – a passion which took her to Paris and London last year where she spent four weeks researching the mélodies of Francis Poulenc, her favourite composer. Bianca has won many awards for her singing including the Dame Malvina Major High Achievers Award twice and the Alliance Francaise Concours de la Chanson twice. Bianca has just been announced as a Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist for 2012 and recently performed in NBR New Zealand Opera’s productions of Hohepa and Rigoletto.
Amitai Pati is a voice performance major and studies at the University of Auckland. He has extensive experience in choral singing, having performed and toured with the New Zealand Youth Choir, the Graduate Choir and the Auckland University Choir. He has also performed as a backing vocalist on George Benson’s and Andrea Bocelli’s New Zealand tour. Most recently Amitai has performed in NBR New Zealand Opera’s Hōhepa for the New Zealand International Arts Festival and Rigoletto. Later this year he will perform as the lead tenor in Auckland Youth Orchestra’s tour of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony before heading to the Wales International Academy of Voice to further his studies.
Isabella Moore is in her third year of study towards a Bachelor of Music majoring in voice performance under the tutelage of Margaret Medlyn at the New Zealand School of Music. Isabella’s passion for singing began with her choral experiences at school and led on to the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir, the National Youth Choir and the Auckland University Chamber Choir. In 2011, Isabella was a finalist in the NZ Aria competition where she was awarded first place in the ‘own selection’ category. Isabella has been selected twice to attend the New Zealand Opera School. Isabella plans to travel overseas to complete advanced training and gain international singing experience.
Voice: Bass Baritone
Hometown: Auckland born and raised
Tavis Gravatt has a Bachelor in Business from AUT University and a Licentiate in Performance Singing from Trinity Guildhall. Tavis began with the Opera Factory in 1999 and has performed in over 25 concerts during his time with them thus far. Tavis was the winner of the John Bond Most Promising Voice at the New Zealand Aria in 2010 where he was a finalist. In 2010 he also won the Becroft Grand Aria final and qualified for the quarter finals of the Sydney McDonalds Aria. Currently, Tavis juggles full time work as an Associate Product Manager alongside singing lessons with Barry Mora and regular casting in the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.
Polly Ott holds a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours, majoring in Performance Voice which she gained from the University of Canterbury under the tuition of Dame Malvina Major. Polly was a finalist in the 2009 Lexus Song Quest and has been the recipient of numerous awards and achievements including: the Kiwi Music Scholarship for 2012, the NZ Opera School Scholarship in 2010, the Dame Malvina Major Foundation’s Arts Excellence awards in both 2008 and 2009 and the University of Canterbury’s Madrigal Singers prize in 2009. Polly is currently in her first year of a Masters of Arts in Opera at the University of Arts in Berlin.
Kawiti Waetford is in his third year of a Bachelor of Music with Honours at the University of Otago, majoring in performance voice under the tutelage of Isabel Cunningham. Kawiti brings to his performance considerable stage experience, with a background in Māori oratory, kapa haka and theatre. He was the recipient of the prestigious Ngarimu VC & Māori Battalion Scholarship in 2010. At just 21, Kawiti has already performed alongside many of New Zealand’s great singers, including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Simon O’Neill. In 2011, Kawiti attended the Solti Te Kanawa Accademia di bel canto; a three week international singing course held in Tuscany. Kawiti is engaged to play Figaro in Opera Otago’s 2012 production of Le Nozze di Figaro.
Marlena Tifaimoana Devoe
Resident: New York, United States
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
Marlena Devoe graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Arts in 2009. She followed this with a language exchange programme in Florence before returning to undertake a Bachelor of Music Honours in performance voice under Dr Te Oti Rakena and Rosemary Barnes which she completed in 2011. Marlena discovered her passion for music at a very young age, joining the NBR New Zealand opera’s Children’s Chorus at age 11. She has been a member of the Auckland Opera factory since 1999, where she has performed with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and other opera stars in concerts across New Zealand. Marlena is currently a Masters candidate at the Manhattan School of Music in New York and has recently performed in The Ghosts of Versailles and Les Contes d’Hoffman with the Manhattan School of Music Opera Studio of which she is a member. Marlena has also been accepted into the voice programme of the Chautauqua Music Festival for 2012.
Stephen Diaz is studying towards a Bachelor of Music at the University of Auckland where he also received the Marie D’Albini Singing Scholarship for 2009/2010. Stephen began singing in the choir at his family’s church in South Africa and when they moved to New Zealand in 2003 he joined the Auckland Youth Choir. On recommendation from one of the choir leaders Stephen began singing lessons with Janice Webb and Morag Atchison and went on to sing with the National Youth Choir and the Auckland Chamber Choir. Stephen has attended the NZ Opera School for three years and is a PWC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist for 2011/2012, which has seen him performing in a number of roles, most recently in Rigoletto.
Photographs by Matt Grace