Triumphing over nine other singers, soprano Chelsea Dolman was awarded first place in the 2016 IFAC Handa New Zealand Singing School Aria Competition on Sunday.
Her renditions of Si, mi chamano Mimi from La Boheme by Puccini, and I want magic from A Streetcar Named Desire by Andre Previn meant she left Napier's Century Theatre with $4000.
Second place went to Eliza Bloom, currently studying in Hamilton, with tenor Filipe Manu coming third.
They were among a group of six finalists, also including Kalauni Pouvalu, Laura Loach, and Kayla Collingwood, who performed in the preliminary rounds of the competition at Napier's Municipal theatre on Saturday night. With Otago University associate professor Judy Bellingham adjudicating, prizes of $4000, $2000 and $1000 were awarded to the winners, with prizes of $200 from Clean Earth Limited for the unplaced finalists.
NZ Singing School Trust chairwoman Helen Walker said there had been great quality singing at the competition, which made it difficult to pick the winners.
"[Ms Bellingham] was looking for accuracy and that the singers could tell a story," she said.
Telling a story in a foreign language meant contestants had to give "a huge performance" and really deliver to the audience, she said.
"All singers and performers need an audience," Ms Walker said, "[events] like this give them an opportunity to perform in a situation where they have to perform to their utmost best.
"Everyone needs that experience and the more they have, the better they get."
The school has been teaching students since 1987, presenting 11-day schools in the first two weeks of January every odd year. As the only school in Australasia which specialises in the crossover from classical to music theatre, students come from all over the Southern Hemisphere to learn from internationally renowned staff.