After wowing judges with his baritone vocals at the Grand Final Gala at the Auckland Town Hall Benson Wilson, Samoan-Kiwi from Auckland, was named the Lexus Song Quest winner of 2016.
In second place was Auckland Tenor Filipe Manu of Tongan descent, third place was Hamilton afatasi soprano Madison Nonoa, with Auckland Bass Baritone Tavis Gravatt coming in at fourth place.
The $15,000 Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation scholarship ‘for the singer who shows the most promise’ was also awarded to Madison Nonoa.
The four finalists each performed three pieces in front of a live audience - one accompanied by pianist Terence Dennis, and two arias alongside the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edo de Waart.
Acclaimed soprano and International Lexus Song Quest Judge Yvonne Kenny said she had been impressed by all four “outstanding” finalists and that New Zealand could be “proud that the fine tradition of beautiful voices and refined singing continues.”
As winner of the 2016 Lexus Song Quest, Benson will receive a cash prize of $20,000 net and a Study Scholarship of $27,000, plus economy international travel up to the value of $3,000.
Benson, who says he was “blessed to receive this honour”, says he is ready to step up to the challenge.
Runner-up Filipe receives an immediate cash prize of $8,000 net supported by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, and a Study Scholarship of $10,000.
The third and fourth place contestants each receive an immediate cash prize of $3,500.
Lexus General Manager Marketing Andrew Davis said the Lexus Song Quest Grand Final Gala was an amazing night.
“Tonight’s Grand Final at the Auckland Town Hall showcased four unique voices and characters, and Ms Kenny had an unenviable task in deciding the overall winner on the night.
“We look forward to following the bright futures of Benson, Madison, Filipe and Tavis,” he said.