Young opera singers around New Zealand have spent the past 10 days auditioning for the country's most prestigious song contest and 10 semifinalists have now been chosen to compete in what can be a life-changing competition.

From Dames Kiri Te Kanawa and Malvina Major to Sole3 Mio's Amitai Pati, the Lexus Song Quest competition has started the international singing careers of a number of New Zealanders. Now in its 60th year, this year's winner will receive $50,000 while the runner-up gets $8000 plus a study scholarship of $10,000. Third and fourth receive $1000 each.

A further $15,000 prize, sponsored by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, will be awarded to the singer who demonstrates "great potential" through the semifinals stage of the competition. This takes place in Wellington in July with head international judge Yvonne Kenny.

Some 47 contestants from Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin competed in this year's initial round with 10 chosen to progress to the semifinal. The Grand Final Lexus Song Quest Gala is on July 23 at the Auckland Town Hall.