On Monday 22 October young second-generation Maltese tenor, Brenton Spiteri, won a tight contest in the final of the prestigious Sun Aria Award at the Hamer Hall in Melbourne, The Award carries more than $30,000 in cash and scholarships. In doing so, Spiteri, 23, became the first male singer to win the Aria since 2009 and only the fourth in 20 years. Runners-up were mezzo soprano Elizabeth Lewis and soprano Fiona Jopson.
According to a report in the Herald Sun newspaper, Brenton said that he was a little shocked and very humbled to have his name called. ” I feel very privileged because it was an amazing final. Everybody sang wonderfully,” he said. Spiteri said he did not come from a musical family but was “fortunate enough to be surrounded by people willing to make sacrifices for me.” He intends to use his winnings to fund overseas tuition, possibly in some summer schools in Europe.
The 88th Herald Sun Aria Final drew a huge crowd and featured Orchestra Victoria under the baton of Maestro Richard Divall. The judges were Divall, Suzanne Johnston and Richard Mills. The youngest artist in the 2012 final, which featured three male singers, Spiteri impressed the judges with arias by Mozart and Donizetti.
The competition began as the Sun Aria in 1924 in Ballarat with the South Street Society. Similar Sun Aria competitions then commenced in Geelong and Ballarat. The latter two seem to have ceased by 1934 and 1936, while others commenced in Sydney and Canberra. It was the Ballarat based competition that survived to become the Herald Sun Aria Competition. Heats are held annually in Ballarat with the final being held at Hamer Hall in Melbourne.
As the latest winner of the Award, Brenton Spiteri is in very good company. Some of the better known winners in the various Aria competitions include Marjorie Jackson (1928 Geelong), Dame Joan Sutherland (1949 City of Sydney), June Gough [Bronhill] (1950 City of Sydney), and Dame Kiri te Kanawa (1966).