Auckland tenor Amitai Pati has won the 2012 Lexus Song Quest and judges say he has the potential to become a superstar.
Pati, 22, was one of three Aucklanders who took out the top spots at the grand final concert at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.
The competition has been the springboard for some of New Zealand's high-profile opera stars. Previous winners include Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Malvina Major, Jonathan Lemalu and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.
"It's unbelievable," Pati said. "I know a few of the guys that have won the competition and to join them is an absolute honour.
"Coming from such humble beginnings to this makes me incredibly happy."
Pati, from South Auckland, is a voice performance major at the University of Auckland. He has extensive experience in choral singing, having performed and toured with the New Zealand Youth Choir, the Graduate Choir and the Auckland University Choir.
He has also performed as a backing vocalist on George Benson's and Andrea Bocelli's New Zealand tour.
Later this year he will perform as the lead tenor in Auckland Youth Orchestra's tour of Beethoven's 9th Symphony before heading to the Wales International Academy of Voice to further his studies.
Judge Dennis O'Neill said he was impressed with all six finalists.
"I personally had several surprises, but I stuck to the principles of awarding the prizes based on the performance.
"I firmly believe that Amitai has the potential to become a superstar. Time will tell."
Countertenor Stephen Diaz came second, tenor Alexander Wilson was third and runners up were Grace Park, Kawiti Waetford and Bryony Williams.
Pati will receive $10,000 cash and a $15,000 study scholarship plus return airfares.
The Lexus Song Quest, formerly the Mobil Song Quest, was established in 1956 and is awarded every two years.
- © Fairfax NZ News