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Lexus Song Quest 2005 Finalists Announced

Lexus Song Quest 2005 Finalists Announced

Six outstanding New Zealand singers have been named to compete in the finals of the prestigious Lexus Song Quest 2005 title at a public concert in Auckland on April 28.

The finalists are Allison Cormack (25), mezzo soprano of Wellington; Jamie Frater (30), baritone of Lower Hutt; Joanna Heslop (29), soprano of New Plymouth; Penelope Muir (24), soprano of Dunedin; Madeleine Pierard (23), soprano of Napier; and Robert Tucker (24), baritone of Dunedin.

From a starting pack of 61 competitors nationwide, these six singers have made it through a rigorous auditioning process and will now vie for a first prize worth more than $25,000, including a study scholarship and cash grant.

Longtime artistic administrator of the competition, Diana Cable, said the six represented New Zealand’s finest young singers.

“It’s really great to have such a high calibre of finalists for the Lexus Song Quest’s first outing under the umbrella of the New Zealand International Arts Festival. All six are new to the finals and their skills are exceptional. It will be an extremely hard competition to judge”, Ms Cable said.

Each singer will showcase their talent by performing two testing arias accompanied by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and one song with piano, in front of legendary American Diva and competition judge Grace Bumbry at the Auckland Town Hall. Master of Ceremonies for the event is previous winner Chris Doig.

The Lexus Song Quest (formerly known as the Mobil Song Quest) was established in 1956 and is a premiere biennial event in the arts calendar, focussed on artistic development for New Zealand’s most talented young classical singers. It is run by the New Zealand International Arts Festival. Previous winners include Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Malvina Major and Jonathan Lemalu.

Brief biographical information on each of the singers is attached to this press release.

Tickets for the finals concert in Auckland are available from all Ticketek outlets. Entry to the regional masterclasses in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin is free. Dates and locations are published on


For further information or to arrange interviews please contact: Arne Herrmann Marketing Manager, New Zealand International Arts Festival Ph: 04 496 5493 / 027 276 1751 Email:


Joanna Heslop is a 29-year-old soprano from New Plymouth. She is currently a member of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers in St Petersburg, Russia, having earned the rare distinction of being offered a place by Artistic Director Larissa Gergieva when competing in the Geneva International Competition. Joanna was a dancer prior to her singing career and feels a strong attachment to the Russian arts.

Joanna was a member of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Emerging Artists programme with the NBR New Zealand Opera in 2000 and 2001. She has a Master of Music (Distinction) in Performance Voice and a Bachelor of Arts, First Class Honours in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington. Other highlights to date include her performance as a soloist in the New Zealand International Arts Festival Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Wellington in 2000, which led to her singing at the 2002 Queen’s Jubilee Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland. Joanna uses yoga to help her sing better and is a vegan.

Allison Cormack is a 25-year-old soprano who grew up in the lower North Island, attending schools in Dannevirke, Levin and Hawke’s Bay. She is currently in her third year of a Bachelor of Music in Performance Voice at Victoria University of Wellington and has a Diploma in Performing Arts – Voice from the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke’s Bay. In 1998 she did the Preparatory Degree Course at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane.

Allison first attended the opera when she was just three years old and was so entranced by the experience that she refused to leave the theatre during the interval. She started formal singing lessons when she was 15. Allison is a member of the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus of the NBR New Zealand Opera and in 2003 she performed the role of the First Lady in The Magic Flute for Opera Hawke’s Bay. She holds a 2005 Moyra Todd Scholarship.

Jamie Frater is a 30-year-old baritone from Lower Hutt, currently working as a computer programmer for the Met Service in Wellington.

Jamie started his voice studies at the age of 18 but stopped after two years to pursue a career in computing. Eight years later, watching a friend perform in Les Miserables prompted a fresh desire to return to sing and he subsequently resumed vocal studies part-time at Massey University’s Conservatorium of Music. In September this year Jamie will start tuition in the Masters programme at the Royal College of Music in London, having been offered places at three major English schools. In the last two years Jamie has performed principal roles in three world premiere productions of New Zealand operas, produced by Sirius Opera, and in April this year he appears in a Sirius Opera production of a Dorothy Buchanan chamber opera.

When not singing, Jamie is a dedicated reader with a particular fondness for the work of Beat Generation writers, including Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

Penelope Muir is a 24-year-old soprano from Dunedin with a Bachelor of Arts in Performing Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Performance Voice from Otago University. This year she is studying for a Post Graduate Diploma and is a Resident Advisor at a student hostel in Dunedin.

In 2004 Penelope won the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Aria competition in Christchurch and was placed third in the Lockwood Aria in Rotorua. Penelope performed the role of Molly in the world premiere production of Anthony Ritchie’s opera “The God Boy” in the 2004 Otago Festival of the Arts. In October Penelope will perform the role of Alice Ford in the Dunedin Opera Company’s production of Salieri’s Falstaff.

Penelope has a strong dance background, having achieved an Advanced 1, RAD Ballet Exam. Physical injury forced her to cut short her dancing career at the age of 17 and she turned to singing, having discovered her voice in musical theatre.

Madeleine Pierard is a 23-year-old mezzo from Napier. She has a Bachelor of Music in Composition and in Performance Voice from Victoria University of Wellington and this year she is doing an Honours course in Performance Voice. Madeleine is a member of TOWER Voices New Zealand, the Tudor Consort and the Chapman Tripp Chorus of the NBR New Zealand Opera. She was a member of TOWER New Zealand Youth Choir from 2000 to 2003, often appearing as a soloist. In 2004 she won the PACANZ National Young Performer Award and she won a Rotary Scholarship for excellence in the study of music. Madeleine holds a 2005 Moyra Todd Scholarship.

Robert Tucker is a 24-year-old baritone from Dunedin, having emigrated from Australia in 1990 when his father became the Dean of Pharmacy at Otago University. Despite his Australian origins, he considers New Zealand his home.

Robert’s family has a musical history – his mother is a choir singer and his grandfather was an Australian tenor. Robert began singing lessons when he was 15 and went on to complete a Bachelor of Music at the University of Otago, after originally starting a science degree. He is currently an Emerging Artist at the Australian Opera Studio in Perth. In 2004 Robert performed the title role of “The God Boy” in the world premiere production of Anthony Ritchie’s opera in the Otago Festival of the Arts. He also appeared as the baritone soloist in concerts with the City of Dunedin Choir and the Southern Sinfonia. In the last couple of years Robert has won the Cleveland Award in the Dunedin Performing Arts Competitions Society and the Otago Daily Times Aria. Robert was a member of the TOWER New Zealand Youth Choir from 2000 to 2003.

Robert is married to a doctor and likes to fish - when he is able to steal some time away from his singing studies.

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