Two singers from Aotearoa/New Zealand and three from New South Wales are in the running for the prestigious Marianne Mathy Scholarship.

by Jason Blake on 24 July, 2023

The five singers competing in the final of the 2023 IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition have been announced; two singers from Aotearoa/New Zealand, three from New South Wales.

In the running for a prize made up of a range of scholarships, masterclasses, workshops, career opportunities and the prestigious $30,000 Marianne Mathy Scholarship are soprano Michaela Cadwgan (NZ), mezzo-soprano Cassandra Doyle, tenor Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono (NZ), mezzo-soprano Ellena Hicks and soprano Yvette Keong (NSW) .

The winner will be decided after performing in front of a live audience on 31 August at the Concert Hall, The Concourse, Chatswood, with the Opera Australia Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Fanshil.

Previous winners include Jeremy Boulton (baritone, 2022), Manase Latu (tenor, 2019), Zoe Drummond(soprano, 2018) and tenor Filipe Manu in 2017. The winner of the first IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition, held in 1982, was soprano Nicola Waite.

L-R: Ellena Hicks, Yvette Keong, Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono, Michaela Cadwgan and Cassandra Doyle with the National Adjudicator Patrick Togher (centre).

Michaela Cadwgan is an alumna of the New Zealand Opera School. In recent years, she has collaborated as soloist with New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO at Te Papa 2020), Wellington Orchestra (Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the New Zealand premiere of Schumann’s Scenes from Faust), Kapiti Concert Orchestra, and is a member of both the New Zealand Opera Chorus and Wellington Opera Chorus.

Mezzo-soprano Cassandra Doyle is in her final year of a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and a graduate of the Conservatorium High School. She has been a recipient of the Patricia Bell Grant, Patricia Long Scholarship and George Henderson Travelling Scholarship, and was awarded 2nd Prize in the Sydney International Song Prize (JSRB Foundation, 2022).

Born in Samoa, Emmanuel Fonoti-Fuimaono was part of a youth performance initiative called “Project Prima Volta” in high school. After learning through PPV, he continued singing at the University of Waikato. He is currently completing his Masters’ at the University of Waikato under the new programme called Te Pae Kōkako – The Aotearoa New Zealand Opera Studio.

Fonoti-Fuimaono won the Lockwood New Zealand Aria Competition and made the Lexus Song Quest Finals winning the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Scholarship for Potential. He played the role of Malcolm in New Zealand Opera’s production of Macbeth and also the role of Tupaia in Tim Finn’s Ihitai ‘Avei’a – The Star Navigator.

From Orange NSW, Ellena Hicks is currently studying a Master of Music Studies (Opera Performance). An alto scholar at St Stephen’s Uniting Church, her solo performances include Leonard Bernstein’s song cycle I Hate Music with the Orange Youth Orchestra and an excerpt from Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujoin the Spanish Music Festival Encuentros Espanoles 2022. She has also performed as an alto soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the Sydney Conservatorium choir and Handel’s Messiah with Radio Community Chest in Sydney’s Town Hall.

Soprano Yvette Keong recently made her solo recital debuts with Carnegie Hall Citywide and Opera Maine and joins the Ravinia Steans Music Festival this summer. She has been featured as a soloist with the Aspen Music Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Annapolis Opera, Music Academy of the West, Marlboro Music Festival, Beth Morrison Projects, Princeton University, and in recital at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and National Sawdust.

Keong completed her Masters at The Juilliard School, where she was the recipient of the Novick Career Advancement Grant.

The 2023 IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition takes place at The Concourse, Chatswood, Sydney, 31 August.