The Lexus Song Quest has discovered the great singers of today. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major, Jonathan Lemalu, and Sol3 Mio’s Amitai Pati – they are all previous Lexus Song Quest winners who now grace the opera stages of the world. In 2016 the stakes had never been higher, with $85,000 in prizes to be won.


  • Benson Wilson

    Winner of the 2016 Lexus Song Quest.

    Age: 25
    Voice: Baritone
    Resident: Auckland

    Benson Wilson completed his Bachelor of Music with honours at the end of 2014 at the University of Auckland. Earlier this year, he debuted in his first principal operatic role as Schaunard in La Boheme with Festival Opera in Napier. In 2014, while still a student, he came second in the Lexus Song Quest, while last year he was third in the New Zealand Aria Competition and a finalist in the North Shore Aria Competition. In the finals of last year’s IFAC Australian Singing Competition, Benson won three major prizes, one of which allows him to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

  • Filipe Manu

    2016 Lexus Song Quest runner-up.

    Age: 23
    Voice: Tenor
    Resident: Hamilton

    Filipe holds an ATCL Diploma through Trinity College London and is completing postgraduate study at the University of Waikato as a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar. Filipe has been a student at the New Zealand Opera School since 2013 and was named 2014’s New Zealand Young Performer of the Year. He was a finalist in the New Zealand that same year and in 2015 was Aria named a Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with New Zealand Opera. Filipe regularly sings in the New Zealand Opera Chorus and has sung lead tenor roles in the Barber of Seville and the Elixir of Love in the company’s schools adapted productions.

  • Madison Nonoa

    2016 Lexus Song Quest third place-getter.

    Age: 23
    Voice: Soprano
    Resident: Hamilton

    Madison has a Bachelor of Music with first-class honours from the University of Auckland. She is a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar at the University of Waikato, where she is studying French and German.  A Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with New Zealand Opera, she this year performs Papagena in The Magic Flute. She is a former member of the New Zealand Youth Choir, an alumna of the New Zealand Opera School and New Zealand Singing School and has been a finalist and winner of many aria competitions around the country. In the 2014 Lexus Song Quest, Madison was the youngest semi-finalist and RNZ Concert Listeners’ Choice Award winner.

  • Tavis Gravatt

    2016 Lexus Song Quest fourth place-getter.

    Age: 29
    Voice: Bass Baritone
    Resident: Auckland

    After singing lead and supporting roles with Auckland’s Opera Factory, in 2010 Tavis won the Becroft Operatic Aria category in the North Shore singing competitions, which granted him entry to the McDonald’s Operatic Aria Competition in Sydney, where he reached the quarter-finals. A few years later he placed third in the final of the New Zealand Aria Competition.  At present he sings with the New Zealand Opera Chorus and performs in concerts around New Zealand while holding down a professional business position at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.

Lexus Song Quest 2014

Isabella Moore
Winner, 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.

Success Stories

  • Amitai Pati

    Winner, 2012 Lexus Song Quest

    Amitai is a voice performance major studying 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 tours. Most recently, Amitai has performed in NBR New Zealand Opera’s Hohepa 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.

  • Aivale Cole

    Winner, 2009 Lexus Song Quest

    Aivale already has an impressive list of opera roles that she has performed including title roles in Aida (Verdi), Ariadne auf Naxos (R. Strauss) and Madama Butterfly (Puccini); Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare (Handel); Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia (Britten); Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Micaela in Carmen (Bizet) and Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte (Mozart). She is currently based in London pursuing an international career.

  • Philip Rhodes

    Winner, 2007 Lexus Song Quest
    Philip has spent some time studying under Dennis O’Neill at the Cardiff International Vocal Academy in Wales. He is currently a Young Artist with the NBR New Zealand Opera Company. He sang the title role in the Opera Company’s production of Hōhepa which was presented as part of the 2012 New Zealand International Arts Festival in March this year. He is now in the UK singing the role of Count di Luna in the Dorset Opera Festival’s production of Il Trovatore.

  • Madeleine Pierard

    Winner, 2005 Lexus Song Quest

    Madeleine completed her studies at the Royal College of Music International Opera School in London, gaining a MMus.  She was also a 2009/10 trainee at the National Opera Studio in London, sponsored by The Royal Opera. She has won a number of awards during her London residency, notably the Lies Askonas Prize, the Great Elm Award at the Wigmore Hall, The Les Azuriales Ozone Opera Competition in France and the Singer’s Award at the Royal Overseas League Competition. She is currently a Jette Parker Young Artist with The Royal Opera, Covent Garden – a very prestigious achievement.

Previous winners

  • 1950's

    1956 Donald Jack
    1957 Paul Gilmore
    1959 Mary O'Brien
  • 1960's

    1961 Patricia Price
    1963 Malvina Major
    1965 Kiri Te Kanawa
    1967 Anna Rasmussen
  • 1970's

    1970 Patricia House
    1972 Christopher Doig
    1974 Christopher Lackner
    1977 Lyle Kennaway
    1979 Malcom Smith
  • 1980's

    1981 Linden Loader
    1983 David Griffiths
    1985 Robyn Lynch
    1987 Deidre Elliot
    1989 Tracey King
  • 1990's

    1991 Teddy Tahu Rhodes
    1993 Martin Snell
    1996 Andrea Creighton
    1998 Jonathan Lemalu
  • 2000's

    2000 Jared Holt
    2002 Anna Leese
    2005 Madeleine Pierard
    2007 Philip Rhodes
    2009 Aivale Cole
    2012 Amitai Pati
    2014 Isabella Moore


Lexus M2 Man of the Year

2013 Dean Barker
2012 Geoff Ross
2011 Rt. Hon. John Key
2010 Marc Ellis
2009 Scott Dixon
2008 Dan Carter

Lexus M2 Woman of the Year

2013 Eleanor Catton
2012 Sophie Pascoe

Wellington Fashion Week 2013


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