New Zealand's most talented opera singers pit themselves against the best from Australia and France at this weekend's Aria Awards in a show of musical splendour.

The competition is a celebration of song and this year marks its 70th anniversary. With a reputation for attracting the highest calibre of entrants, winners have the opportunity of training overseas and launching careers on the world stage.

The prize money of $20,000 from the Dame Malvina Major Foundation helps the winner continue their training and travel costs for overseas tuition.

"It is something to be strived for to be able to put on their CV that they have won the New Zealand Aria. All our winners have gone on to have a professional career in classical singing. Both the brothers of the Sole 3 Mio group, Pene Pati and Amitai Pati have won our competition," said president of the New Zealand Aria Trust, Jo-Anne La Grouw.


Contestants will be accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, enhancing the experience for audience and contestants.

"Competitors' performance is lifted 100 per cent when backed by a full orchestra. For some, they will never have sung with an orchestra before and this is a really exhilarating experience for them," she said.

"Having a full professional orchestra playing for the finalists gives a double element to the evening. World-class classical singers plus a full professional orchestra playing. Rotorua rarely has a full orchestra visit except for this occasion," she said.

Guest artist is Simon O'Neill, one of the finest Heldon tenors on the international stage who is great demand all over the world.

What: The New Zealand Aria Awards
Where: Rotorua Civic Theatre
When: Sunday 7.30pm
Tickets: $60 from Ticketmaster