New Zealanders showed they were as good as anyone else in the world at the New Zealand Aria competition - with Kiwis taking nine of the 10 finalists' spots in the open class finals.

Hundreds of fans filled the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre tonight to support the local and national talent at the finals.

New Zealand Aria Trust chairwoman Mrs Jo-Anne La Grouw said the competition would be phenomenal.
"The judges said while they could only choose 10 finalists, the standard was so high they could have picked 23."

One of the finalists, Manase Latu, took home the Under 21 class competition on Saturday night.


The guest artist for the evening was New Zealander Simon O'Neill who was to perform an aria.

The New Zealand Aria competition convener Ian Edward said Mr O'Neill had recently returned from television work in Rome.

"He is a true international class tenor."

The two judges, who Mr Edward described as international quality judges, were Glenn Winslade and Luise Napier.

"They are based out of Sydney, they work globally and are vastly experienced."

He said he had been sitting with the judges over the three evenings of competitions and said they were truly impressed with the standard of the finalists in all categories.

"This is a credit not only to the singers but to the teachers. The number of overseas entrants show that this is a competition that is known across the world."

Mrs La Grouw said the winner of the open category would take home a prize pack worth $20,000.

This is made up of $10,000 cash, $5000 towards audition or competition fees and $5000 to enter the Sydney Aria competition held in June each year.

This year the full Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra would be backing the finalists with New Zealand born Hamish McKeich as conductor.

Mrs La Grouw said each finalist chose their own aria to sing, but it had to be one within the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's library, which could limit their choice a little bit.

Mr Edward said Rotorua was the ideal community to hold such an prestigious event.

"It's got the culture, the infrastructure and first class amenities at the Sir Howard Morrison with proximity to Auckland, Wellington and Sydney."

Results to come.