Concert review: Lexus Song Quest, Auckland Town Hall

By William Dart

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Finalists in the Lexus Song Quest Left to right: Christian Thurston, Benson Wilson, Bianca Andrew, Oliver Sewell, Isabella Moore and seated at front, Edward Laurenson.
Finalists in the Lexus Song Quest Left to right: Christian Thurston, Benson Wilson, Bianca Andrew, Oliver Sewell, Isabella Moore and seated at front, Edward Laurenson.

Far-sighted sponsorship and a history running back almost 60 years have given the Lexus Song Quest an iconic status in our musical community.

Tonight was the ultimate showcase for the six finalists, introduced by Helen Medlyn, the theatrically convivial MC, as the premier performance event in the country.

The contestants delivered a song each, with pianist Terence Dennis, and two arias with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under the simpatico Emmanuel Joel-Hornak.

At the end of an enjoyable evening, Kathryn Harries gave her final verdict, warning us that if these "stars of tomorrow" were Olympic athletes, there would be just split-seconds between them.

While the final decision has always incorporated the judge's impressions from working with the young artists, there was no denying the winning impact of Isabella Moore's gloriously full and warm soprano voice.

Not only did we have a big voice tackling big repertoire, but Moore was happy to repeat Mozart's demanding and brilliant Come scoglio as an encore.

Runner-up, Benson Wilson brought lustrous phrasing to "Pierrot's Tanzlied" from Korngold's Die Tote Stadt.

Third-place getter, Christian Thurston, warmed up considerable over the evening; the emotionally charged orchestral introduction to Rodrigo's Act IV aria from Verdi's Don Carlo, built up expectations that the young baritone easily fulfilled.

It was an evening of memorable performances.

Oliver Sewell revealed an unforced lyrical tenor in a Schubert lied and some meltingly beautiful Donizetti bel canto

Baritone Edward Laurenson showed stalwart ambition with a Strauss lied and, as the Count in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, one felt his frustration in not having more stage space to let his character rove and roam.

Bianca Andrew's saucy Sexy Lady had enough creative stage business to suggest the possibilities of a career in cabaret. Her meticulously observed Non so piu caught Cherubino in the full flush of adolescent volatility.

One hopes that Aucklanders will take advantage of the free masterclass in the town hall concert chamber tonight. Harries' combination of wit, charm and acumen will be put to entertaining use as she fine-tunes arias by Wilson, Andrew and three other young singers.

What: Lexus Song Quest
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Saturday 26 July

- NZ Herald

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