There was certainly an impressive range of talent on display as the six finalists in this year's competition each presented two contrasting operatic arias for international opera singer Catherine Pierard and an appreciative audience.

"This was an astonishingly fine recital," Ms Pierard said.

"The singing was up to a very good professional standard and it was an extremely difficult task to judge with the placings very close."

Penny Benson, on behalf of the sponsors, commented on the amount of work and dedication needed to reach such a standard of performance and encouraged all the performers to continue to strive to "fulfil their dreams".

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First prize of $4000 was awarded to Hamilton soprano Madison Nonoa for her highly skilled and polished performances of Oh! Quante volte from Capulet e I Montecchi by Bellini, and Chacun le sait from La Fille du Regiment by Donizetti.

Mezzo-soprano Elisha Fa'i-Hulton from Palmerston North won second prize of $2000 for her singing of Una Voce Poco Fa from The Barber of Seville by Rossini, and Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse! from Samson et Dalila by Saint Saens. Third place and a prize of $1000 went to Dunedin soprano Maia Vegar for her performance of Geme la tortorella from La Finta Giardiniera by Mozart, and I Want Magic from A Streetcar Named Desire by Andree Previn.

Each of the other finalists - Auckland sopranos Christina Orgias and Bernice Austin and mezzo-soprano Christie Cook from Wellington - won prizes of $250 donated by Clean Earth Ltd.

All the singers received excellent support in their performances from the sensitive accompaniment of pianist Greg Neil from the University of Waikato. The evening was enhanced by the informative introductions from Compere Lynda Pipe.

Ensemble Confetti - flautists Emily Cargill and Dana Parkhill, violist Gretchen Anderson and cellist Paula Sugden - entertained while the placings were finalised, with a delightfully varied selection of items.

This was the climax to the singing section of the Easter Festival where there were similarly high standards of performance, particularly in the Recital Class sponsored by the Hawke's Bay French Association. This class was also won by Madison Nonoa.

Napier Performing Arts Competitions Society Napier Computer Systems Software Ltd Aria Final
Century Theatre, Napier
Sunday night
Reviewed by Peter Williams