Lexus winner thrilled, blessed and excited

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Benson Wilson celebrates his Lexus Song Quest win with (from left) Filipe Manu, Tavis Gravatt and Madison Nonoa.
Benson Wilson celebrates his Lexus Song Quest win with (from left) Filipe Manu, Tavis Gravatt and Madison Nonoa.

Four days after winning the country's most prestigious song contest, Benson Wilson was at his Onehunga home helping to put away groceries.

The 25 year old Auckland baritone was named the Lexus Song Quest winner at last Saturday's Grand Final, taking home prizes totaling $50,000, and will leave New Zealand in September to spend two years doing post-graduate studies at the Guildhall of Drama and Music.

Second place getter was Auckland Tenor Filipe Manu, in third place was Hamilton soprano Madison Nonoa, and Auckland Bass Baritone Tavis Gravatt was fourth. Nonoa was also awarded the $15,000 Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation scholarship for the singer who shows the most promise.

Reflecting on his win, Wilson, who came second in the 2014 Lexus competition, says he's still feeling "thrilled, blessed and very excited". He spoke to the NZ Herald about his career to date and what the future holds.

1. How did you feel when you won?
I was overwhelmed! A couple of dozen of my family were there and you could tell by the roar that they were so very pleased for me, too.

They have seen me work very hard and make many sacrifices to do this and I could show them I have been working hard and that time apart from them has been well spent.

2. Aside from winning the Lexus Song Quest, what's been your proudest moment so far?
My proudest moment so far would be when I walked across the university stage in 2015 to graduate with my family present. For my paternal grandparents and my maternal grandparents, I was the first grandchild to get a degree and definitely won't be the last.

3. When did you first hear opera and what made you want to pursue it?
I first heard opera when I was 12, I was watching Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny was conducting Rossini's aria Largo al Factotum from the Barber of Seville. What made me want to pursue opera was the drama behind all of the opera and, the fact that an opera singer can move an audience to tears and then walk off stage and high-five their colleagues like nothing just happened.

4. What is the greatest myth perpetuated about opera?
The greatest myth perpetuated about opera is that opera is only for the old and the rich. Opera can be for all ages and for anyone who has ears.

5. Where would you like to be in 10 years' time?
I'll be 35... and would want to be performing in international operas houses, but getting the opportunity to come home and work here, too. My dream roles include Marcello in La Boheme and Silvio in Pagliacci.

- NZ Herald

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