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Youth, Experience Combine In Lexus Song Quest Semi

Media Release – for immediate release

1 December 2008

Youth & Experience Combine In Lexus Song Quest Semi-Finals

Youth and experience are well represented in the 12 semi-finalists selected last week for the 2009 Lexus Song Quest.

Four past Lexus Song Quest finalists stand beside two first time entrants in the 2009 semi-finalists. The 2007 runner up Wade Kernot (28) and third prize-winner Emma Fraser (29) have returned with fellow finalists Aivale Cole (32) and Claire Barton (27). New-comers Polly Ott (21) and Barbara Graham (22) are both thrilled to have been selected on their first attempt at New Zealand’s leading vocal competition.

Andrew Glover (31), Matt Landreth (29) and Sarah-Ann Walker (28) have all previously been selected as semi-finalists and Julia Booth (24), Kristen Darragh (28) and Georgia Jamieson Emms (25) are reaching the semi-final round for the first time. (Bios attached.)

Competition was fierce for the 12 places and the three preliminary judges found that there was a high standard of talent amongst the 54 entrants. Judge Richard Greager, an internationally recognized tenor said, “We have seen a number of very young singers who show a huge amount of potential”.

Fellow judges Rosemary Barnes and Annabelle Cheetham commented on the excellent preparation that all entrants had demonstrated and that they had met the many challenges that the Lexus Song Quest presented with a high level of self-assurance, confidence and poise.

Of the 12 semi-finalists comprising seven sopranos, two mezzos, one tenor, one baritone and one bass, six are living overseas in Sydney, Perth and London. All semi-finalists will now go on to record a programme of six arias or songs in February 2009. The preliminary judges will reconvene to listen to those recordings and select the six finalists who will compete in the final concert in the Auckland Town Hall on Thursday 23 April, 2009.

The final concert will be judged by the great German tenor Siegfried Jerusalem and the finalists will sing with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Lloyd.

The Lexus Song Quest is a proven springboard for young singers and has played a significant part in the development of the careers of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Malvina Major, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Jonathan Lemalu.

The Lexus Song Quest is managed and presented by the New Zealand International Arts Festival. …ends.



Claire Barton 27 Mezzo

Resident: Dunedin Hometown: Dunedin

Since reaching the final of the Lexus Song Quest in 2007, Claire Barton has achieved a great deal of success. She graduated with a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Otago and was awarded the Ida G. White Memorial Prize in Music. She also has a BA (Hons, 1st class) in English and History. Claire is currently working as a Library Assistant at the University of Otago Health Sciences Library while she continues her vocal studies with Isabel Cunningham. Claire is a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the NBR New Zealand Opera. In their recent production of Jenufa, Claire performed the role of Tetka and sang as a member of the chorus. Also this year, Claire performed the role of Mad Margaret in the ‘Really Authentic Gilbert & Sullivan Performance Trust’s production of Ruddigore, was a soloist with the St Kilda Brass Band in Brass Night at the Proms, and in a Schubert Mass with the City of Dunedin Choir. She also sang the South African National Anthem at the All Blacks vs.South Africa test match at Carrisbrook.

Julia Booth 24 Soprano

Resident: Hamilton Hometown: Canada / Hamilton

Julia is currently completing a Master of Arts at the University of Waikato. She is the Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar at the University and was awarded the prestigious Hillary Medal in 2007 as the Top Performance Scholar. Julia sang the National Anthem when Sir Edmund Hillary received his Honorary Doctorate in 2007 and she recorded an aria for the Hillary Scholar Album, which was released in November 2008. In 2007 Julia was also named as the Wallace Corporation Creative and Performing Arts Person of the Year and she was the winner of the inaugural University of Waikato Aria Competition. This year Julia completed her tenure as a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the NBR NZ Opera and she sang the sole of Barena and understudied the role of Karolka in the company’s production of Jenufa. Julia has recently won the New Zealand Aria in Rotorua. Julia grew up in Canada and returned to her homeland in 2003, so it was appropriate for her to sing the Canadian National Anthem at the 2007 All Blacks vs Canada test match in Hamilton.

Aivale Cole 32 Soprano

Resident: Perth, Australia Hometown: Wellington

Aivale Cole has just made her debut with the Western Australian Opera in the title role of Aida. Aivale is based in Perth, Western Australia where she graduated from the Australian Opera Studio with Honours and was Awarded the Dux Prize in 2005. Aivale has also completed a Bachelor in Performance Art degree from NASDA based at The Christchurch College of Education and a Diploma in Performance Art – Opera from the University of Auckland. She won the 2006 Lockwood Aria and has been finalist in the Sydney McDonald’s Aria and the Lexus Song Quest. Aivale has a wide range of operatic roles and she has also featured in a number of new works such as Classical Polynesia in the NZ International Arts Festival, Ifoga in the Christchurch Arts Festival and she recorded a solo piece with the NZSO for the soundtrack of Peter Jackson’s film The Lord of the Rings-Fellowship of the Rings. She is a versatile performer, having toured New Zealand with jazz singer Malcolm McNeill and working as an actress in theatre.

Kristen Darragh 28 Mezzo

Resident: London, UK Hometown: Auckland

Since 2004 Kristen Darragh has been a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In that time she has received a Post-Graduate Performance Diploma and she has just graduated from the Opera Course. She has performed a number of principal roles with the Royal Academy Opera, including Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Lucretia in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Zita in Gianni Schicchi. This year Kristen has performed the role a Stewardess in the British Youth Opera production of Flight by Jonathan Dove; she was a finalist in the Royal Overseas League competition and she took part in the Solti Accademia di Bel Canto summer school where she worked with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Frederica von Stade. While at the Royal Academy, Kristen has been awarded with the Karaviotis Scholarship and has received the Kobler Award. In 2004 Kristen was a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the NBR New Zealand Opera. She has performed two roles with the NZ Opera – Fyodor in Boris Godunov (2003) and Siebel in Faust (2006). Kristen returns to New Zealand this Christmas to take up a year-long position of Young Artist with NZ Opera and next year she will sing the role of Zulma in L’italiana in Algeri.

Emma Fraser 29 Soprano

Resident: London, UK Hometown: Dunedin

After being placed third in the 2007 Lexus Song Quest, Emma moved to London and has recently made her UK debut as Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro for Ilford Arts in Bath. In the last year she has performed in several festivals in Italy and France and this month she has performed in a recital in St George’s Church, London. Prior to 2007 Emma spent 2 years at the Australian Opera Studio in Perth studying with Anthea Moller and Gregory Yurisich. She has a Postgraduate Diploma in Voice and a BMus from Otago University. At the Australian Opera Studio Emma has performed nine operatic roles including Pamina (Magic Flute), Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Despina (Così fân tutti) and the title roles of Manon and Rodelinda. She also performed two recital programmes, was a soprano soloist in Mendelssohn’s Elijah and performed two Cabaret programmes for ABC live radio broadcasts. Over the last few years Emma has won the North Shore Becroft Aria, the Otago Daily Times Aria and the Christchurch Dame Malvina Major Foundation Aria. She has also been a regular soloist with the Dunedin Sinfonia.

Andrew Glover 31 Tenor

Resident: London, UK Hometown: Taupo/Auckland

After attaining a bachelors degree from the Unitec School of Performing Arts, Andrew made his operatic debut in the NBR New Zealand Opera’s touring production of I Barbiere di Seviglia. In 2004 Andrew was a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the NZ Opera and the next year he went to study at the Australian Opera Studio in Perth. He graduated from the Studio with Honours and the Dux Award in 2007, having performed many operatic roles and in recital and cabaret. Andrew now lives in London and this year he performed a role in La Gioconda and covered the role of Monostatos in The Magic Flute for Opera Holland Park. He also covered the two tenor roles in Stravinsky’s The Fox for Mahogany Opera. In 2009 Andrew will appear as a soloist in Haydn’s Creation with the Mirfield Choral Society. Andrew has come to opera from a theatre and dance background. His professional acting credits include productions for the Auckland Theatre Company and taking the title role in the feature film The Bogeyman for Pacific Renaissance Pictures.

Barbara Graham 22 Soprano

Resident: Wellington Hometown: Wellington

Barbara is currently in her third year of a BSc in Marine Biology at Victoria University and earlier this year she graduated with a BMus in Performance Voice from the New Zealand School of Music. This year she was the recipient of the Mona Ross Scholarship and last year the Mary McHardy Scholarship at the New Zealand School of Music. Barbara studies voice with Margaret Medlyn and she also has received training in piano and ballet. For the last year Barbara has been a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the NBR New Zealand Opera Company and earlier in the year she shared the role of the Sandman and the Dew Fairy in the company’s touring season of Hansel and Gretel. She also understudied the roles of Barena and Jano in the recent season of Jenufa. Also this year Barbara has performed as soprano soloist with the Taupo Choral Society in Mozart’s C Minor Mass and in Carmina Burana with the Southern Sinfonia.

Georgia Jamieson Emms 25 Soprano

Resident: Wellington Hometown: Featherston, Wairarapa

Georgia completed a BMus (Hons, 1st class) at Victoria University in 2005. She currently continues her vocal studies with Margaret Medlyn and Bruce Greenfield and she works part time as a music teacher at Marsden School, teaching voice, piano and taking the choir. She also is music director of the Marsden School productions. 2008 has been a successful year for Georgia – she won the Napier Computer System Aria, the Nelson Sealord Aria, the Most Outstanding Competitor at the Wellington Competitions and she was runner-up in the Otago Daily Times Aria in Dunedin and the Ramon Opie Memorial Aria in Wellington. She also performed the role of Fiordiligi in the Opera Otago season of Cosi fân tutti during the Otago Festival. Georgia was a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir and participated in two overseas tours. She is currently a member of the chorus of the NBR New Zealand Opera and sings occasionally with the Sacred Heart Cathedral Choir and Note Bene, a chamber choir in Wellington. Georgia is moving to Europe in late January to pursue her vocal studies.

Wade Kernot 28 Bass

Resident: London, UK Hometown: Auckland

Wade has just started a year of study at the National Opera Studio in London. After being placed second in the 2007 Lexus Song Quest, Wade performed the bass role in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella for the Hessishes State Theatre in Wiesbaden, Germany. He returned to NZ to perform the role of Zuniga in Southern Opera’s Carmen and he also won the New Zealand Aria Contest. This year Wade performed the bass roles in Lyon Opera’s production of a Kurt Weill double bill of The Lindbergh Flight and The Seven Deadly Sins, presented in the New Zealand International Arts Festival. He also performed the role of Ferrando in Southern Opera’s production of Il Trovatore. Wade is completing his year as the PwC Dame Malvina Major Young Artist and in 2003 he was an Emerging Artist with the NBR New Zealand Opera. Wade has a Diploma in Performing Arts in Voice from the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay, where he studied with Patrick Power and he is a graduate of the Australian Opera Studio in Perth.

Matt Landreth 29 Baritone

Resident: Wellington Hometown: Owaka, Sth Otago

Matt has been a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the NBR NZ Opera during 2007 and 2008. Earlier this year he performed the role of the Custom’s Sergeant and covered the role of Shaunard in the NZ Opera’s production of La Bohème. He also performed the role of Don Alfonso in Così fân tutti, Opera Otago’s production in the 2008 Otago Festival. In recent years Matt has performed a number of roles for Opera Otago and for Dunedin’s ‘Really Authentic Gilbert & Sullivan Performance Trust’. Matt was a finalist in the New Zealand Aria earlier this year and he was a semi-finalist in the 2005 Lexus Song Quest. Matt has appeared as a soloist with the Auckland Philharmonia, Auckland’s Bach Musica, the Dunedin Youth Orchestra and he has a strong choral background having been a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir, the New Zealand Secondary Students’Choir and the Otago University Capping Sextet. Matt works in multimedia and graphic design and he is a keen sportsman, having run several half marathons.

Polly Ott 21 Soprano

Resident: Christchurch Hometown: Christchurch

Polly is in her final year of a BMus in Performance Voice at Canterbury University, where she studies with Dame Malvina Major. She plans to return to university next year for an Honours year and then to continue her vocal studies overseas. Polly is a chorus member of Southern Opera and she also sings as part of the Solid Energy Ensemble of Southern Opera, which gives concerts around the South Island. This year she received an Arts Excellence Award from the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, she performed with Dame Malvina in a fundraising concert for the Marlborough Hospice Trust in Blenheim and she won a number of classes at the Christchurch Competitions. Polly has been a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir and the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir, touring internationally with both choirs.

Sarah-Ann Walker 28 Soprano

Resident: Sydney, Australia Hometown: Christchurch

Sarah-Ann Walker was a semi-finalist in the 2007 Lexus Song Quest. At that time she moved to Sydney and has been living there, studying voice with the acclaimed tenor Glenn Winslade. Prior to that Sarah-Ann studied with Dame Malvina Major at Canterbury University. In 2006-7 Sarah-Ann was a PwC Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with the NBR NZ Opera and during that time she understudied the roles of Liu in Turandot and Marguerite in Faust. Sarah-Ann has appeared as a soloist singing Mozart with the Christchurch Symphony & the Christchurch City Choir and with the Southern Sinfonia & the Dunedin Civic Choir. She took the role of Mrs Sullivan in the University of Canterbury’s production of The God Boy (an opera by Anthony Ritchie and Jeremy Commons) in 2006. Sarah-Ann has won the North Shore Becroft Aria, the Nelson Sealord Aria, the South Auckland Aria and she was a semi-finalist in the McDonalds Aria in Sydney. She has won the New Zealand Opera Society Award and the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Arts Excellence Award.


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