Tenor Manase Latu has won the Marianne Mathy Scholarship, ‘The Mathy’, at the IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition. The 23-year-old New Zealand tenor won the competition’s major prize, which includes a $30,000 purse, at the finals concert held at The Concourse, Chatswood, bringing a ringing sound and well-shaped phrasing to performances of Ferrando’s aria Tradito, Schernito from Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and Ecco ridente in cielo, from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

Manase LatuManase Latu. Photo © Tom Truong

Whittled down from 81 at the beginning of the competition, five finalists competed for The Mathy, and other prizes, in a finals concert with the Opera Australia Orchestra, conducted by Dr Nicholas Milton.

“I’m very humbled and I feel incredibly blessed to have been given this award in the midst of such amazing talent tonight,” Latu said on accepting the award, before going on to thank, among others, the competition’s National Adjudicator Noëmi Nadelmann for the experience. “It’s been priceless for every single one of us.”

“A shout out to my teacher, Te Oti Rakena, thank you so much,” he said. “We got there in the end, ay.”

Latu’s prize includes an opportunity to audition for the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s professional artist development program, The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, as well as the Lili Ussher Prize, a portrait painting of the singer in concert dress, and the Oral History Award, a taped interview by oral historian Diana Ritch to be retained in the National Library of Australia. In addition to the main prize, Latu also took out the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Award, for a professional engagement with the orchestra.

Rebecca Hart, Bianca Bacchiella, Noëmi Nadelmann, Manase Latu, Josi Ann Ellem, Samson Setu. Photo © Tom Truong 

Australian Rebecca Hart – who brought a blooming mezzo and plenty of clarity to bear on Olga’s Aria from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and, bringing to a close the competitive part of the evening, Cruda Sorte from Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri – was awarded both the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Award (for one year’s postgraduate study at the UK school) and the $5,000 Nelly Apt Scholarship, which covers travel and accommodation to attend the Israeli Opera Young Artist Program in Tel Aviv, as well as the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Prize, a professional engagement with the choir. She also took out the MOST Audience Prize, which was announced this morning, after some technical issues with the online voting system meant the winner couldn’t be announced at the ceremony itself.

Australian soprano Bianca Bacchiella – who brought plenty of humour to Mozart’s In uomini, in soldati from Così fan tutte, and dispatched some stunning high notes in Gounod’s Je veux vivre from Roméo et Juliette – was awarded the Royal Northern College of Music Award, for one year’s study at the College in Manchester, and the Merenda Legacy Prize, a cash grant of $7,000 to study Italian in Italy.

New Zealand bass-baritone Samson Setu took out the International Vocal Arts Institute New York Scholarship, and the Saarbrücken Opera House Prize for his forbidding performance of Come dal ciel precipita from Verdi’s Macbeth – with its wonderful march of grim trombones – and Mozart’s Madamina, il catalogo è questo from Don Giovanni.

Australian Josi Ann Ellen was awarded the Canberra Symphony Orchestra Prize and the Noëmi Nadelmann Prize – lessons with the soprano and vocal coach – bringing a fulsome soprano to Strauss’ An die Nacht and  Si, Mi chiamano Mimi from Puccini’s La Bohème. All five singers receive the Opera Australia Prize, an opportunity to attend rehearsals in Melbourne and Sydney and observe an opera throughout the stages of its production.

Opera director Moffatt Oxenbould was awarded the MOST Achievement Award for his contributions to what he described as this “famously irrational yet resilient art form.”

The finals concert was opened with a celebratory blaze of brass from Milton and the orchestra in Wagner’s Prelude to the third act of Lohengrin, who also kept the party going while the adjudicators (Noëmi Nadelmann, Jeffrey Black, Joanne Goodman and Dr Narelle Yeo) made their deliberations, with cracking performances of Sibelius’ Finlandia and Von Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture, alongside a striking performance of Morrò, ma prima in grazia from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera by mezzo Isabella Moore, who won The Mathy in 2014.