2018 Lexus Song Quest in search of finest NZ voice

National auditions for the biennial Lexus Song Quest competition began May 8 – 12, after which 40 entrants will be narrowed down to 10 semi-finalists on a three-month journey to discover Aotearoa’s opera stars of the future.



In 2018 there are $90,000 in prizes up for grabs and 40 eager entrants with their eye on the title – judged by Head Judge and Australian National Opera School founder Lisa Gasteen and announced live at a glamorous Grand Final Gala at the Auckland Town Hall on Saturday 28 July.


“Lexus is proud to continue our association with the Lexus Song Quest as it searches for our elite young opera talent,” said Paul Carroll, Lexus New Zealand’s Senior General Manager. “Every year we are amazed at the depth of talented young New Zealand singers that enter the competition which enables them to both showcase their talent and gain critical opera experience and support.”


Acknowledged as New Zealand most prestigious singing prize, since its 1956 inception, Lexus Song Quest winners include Dame Malvina Major, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Jonathan Lemalu, and Sol3 Mio’s Amitai Pati all who have since gone on to grace the opera stages of the world.


2016 winner proud Samoan Benson Wilson, who featured in issue 68 of SPASIFIK Magazine, praises his Lexus Song Quest experience as “an incredible opportunity to share a song with the nation.”


Ten of the 2018 entrants are currently based in Auckland, ten from Wellington, eight from Dunedin, two from Hamilton, one from Christchurch, one from Palmerston North and eight are New Zealanders living or studying overseas.


Who will win? Here’s how we find out:


  • Preliminary auditions take place in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin 8 – 12 May, from which 10 Semi-Finalists will be announced. Our preliminary judges are dedicated educators and internationally acclaimed artists; dramatic contralto Liane Keegan and baritone John Bolton Wood.• Semi-finalists meet in Wellington for the Coaching Academy with Head Judge, soprano, Lisa Gasteen 16-19 July.


  • From the Semi-finalists the Head Judge will select five Finalists at a series of live Semi-Final concerts held 21 & 22 July in Wellington.


  • The Head Judge will announce the five Finalists at the end of the Sunday evening Semi-Final concert on 22 July.


  • From 23 July Finalists will rehearse for the Grand Final with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and pianist Terence Dennis.


  • The five Finalists perform at the 2018 Lexus Song Quest Grand Final, 28 July at the Auckland Town Hall with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The Head Judge will announce the winner live on the night.


  • Thanks to the generous support of the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation we also hold two public Masterclasses for selected 2018 Lexus Song Quest entrants in Wellington on 24 July and Auckland on 29 July.


The Prizes:


  • The winner of the 2018 Lexus Song Quest will receive an immediate cash prize of $20,000 net and a Study Scholarship of $27,000, plus economy international travel up to the value of $3,000.


  • The runner-up will receive an immediate cash prize of $10,000 supported by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation and a Study Scholarship of $10,000.


  • The other three finalists will each receive an immediate cash prize of $3,500 net.


  • An additional $15,000 scholarship prize will be awarded by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation to the singer who shows the most promise.


Follow the 2018 Lexus Song Quest journey online at songquest.co.nz or Facebook.com/nzfestival.


Tickets for the Grand Final Gala go on sale Wednesday 30 May.