Our Judges & Conductors


Nicole Youl

New Zealand Aria – Open Section

With a Diploma of Arts in Music from the Victorian College of the Arts where she studied singing with Dame Joan Hammond, Nicole Youl then went on to win the Herald-Sun Aria in 1991 after which she travelled to London for further study. A winner of many singing competitions and recipient of many scholarships, she was a finalist in the 1994 Placido Domingo World Operalia competition in Mexico City and won the Metropolitan Opera Awards in 1995, the Rome Opera Award in 1996 and the Australian Singing Competition’s Opera Awards in 2002.

Nicole made her mark as a soprano in the works of Puccini and Verdi– she has performed the title role in Madama Butterfly (Opera Australia), Mimi in La bohème (Opera Australia, Opera Queensland, Paiz Festival in Guatemala), title role in Tosca (Opera Australia, Victorian State Opera), Liu in Turandot (OA), Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, the title role in Suor Angelica and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi (OA), Leonora in Il Trovatore (West Australian Opera, Opera Australia) and Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera (OA). Other roles include Elsa in Lohengrin (OA), Fidelio (OA), Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana (WAO), Micaela in Carmen (OA, OQ and WAO), Diane in Iphigenie en Tauride (OA), Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (VSO), First Lady in The Magic Flute (OA) and Die Vertraute and Die Vierte Maid in Elektra (Teatro dell’ opera di Roma).

On the concert platform, Nicole has performed as soprano soloist with the major Australian orchestras in Mahler’s Symphony No.2 and No.8, Verdi’s Requiem, Rachmaninov’s The Bells, Bruckner’s Te Deum and Strauss’ Four Last Songs and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. She sang Wellgunde in Götterdämmerung and Tove in Gurrelieder for the Perth Festival and Ortlinde in Die Walküre for the Sydney Symphony.

Nicole has recently made the move back to mezzo soprano, where she started when a student, and has sung the mezzo solos in Beethoven 9 and The Trillion Souls (Hamilton) with QSO, ‘Erbarme dich, mein Gott’ in concert with SSO, and the role of Grimgerde in Die Walkure with OA. 

A mentor with The Australian Singing Competition’s Mentor Program, Nicole has recently relocated to Perth where she is delighted to have taken up a position as classical voice teacher at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).


Michael Lewis

New Zealand Aria – Open Section

Michael Lewis, one of Australia’s most respected singers, is highly regarded for his command of both operatic and concert repertoire. After winning the Metropolitan Opera Competition in 1973 and an Arts Council Scholarship, Michael left Adelaide for Europe, marking the beginning of a successful international career. His major debut at the Wexford Festival in 1976 was followed by performances at opera houses in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Leipzig, Amsterdam, Venice, San Diego, Pittsburgh, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North, Glyndebourne Festival and Touring Opera, Mexico and New Zealand.  At home in Australia he has performed 35 major roles with Opera Australia, as well as regular appearances with the state companies in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Michael has performed a wide range of roles, from Mozart to Wagner to 21st century compositions, and he has a strong association with the works of Verdi, having performed in 12 of the Italian master’s operas. Rigoletto has been a signature role, Michael having performed it at, amongst others, La Fenice Venice; in the famous Jonathan Miller mafia-style production in London; in Elijah Moshinsky’s Opera Australia production; in the Parks Concert performance in Sydney, in which Dame Joan Sutherland made her farewell appearance in the role of Gilda; and in an earlier John Copley production, for which he won a Green Room Award.

Other career highlights include: soloist with Rudolf Nureyev at the London Coliseum in Bejart’s ballet to Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer; his first Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for Opera Australia; and the world premiere creations of Jeronimus Cornelisz in Batavia by Richard Mills, The Major in Madeline Lee by John Haddock and a new venture which saw him appear at Belvoir St Theatre in a Sisters Grimm realisation of La Traviata

On the concert platform, Michael has appeared in solo recital, and sung with numerous orchestras around the world, and all of Australia’s symphony orchestras, with countless conductors of world renown. His repertoire encompasses all the major baritone works, in particular Carmina Burana, A War Requiem, Belshazzar’s Feast, Ein Deutsches Requiem, Elijah, Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen and 8th Symphony; The Dream of Gerontius, Messiah, Requiem (Fauré), The Wound Dresser (Adams), and Songs and Dances of Death (Mussorgsky).

Michael Lewis can be seen on DVD in Opera Australia recordings of Die Fledermaus with Dame Joan Sutherland, and the 50th Anniversary Gala. His CD, Schubert: Lieder Orchestrations, features arrangements by Brahms, Reger, Offenbach, Liszt and Mottl. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2008.

A highly regarded singing teacher, mentor and coach, Michael has recently taken up the post of voice teacher at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) and is a mentor with The Australian Singing Competition’s Mentor Program.


Anna Pierard, Soprano

New Zealand Aria Under 21

Raised in HB, music was always the focus for Anna, and she was a member of the NZ Secondary Students Choir and Orchestra, National Youth Choir and Orchestra, as a violist and singer.

She gained her Dip.Perf.Art (Voice) at EIT and following that, travelled to London, to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to take up a scholarship and study singing. There, whilst studying for her Masters, she met her husband Jose Aparicio, a flautist and conductor.  Both consequently moved to Amsterdam where Anna studied opera at the Royal Conservatoire.

Following her graduation, she performed as a soloist at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Palau de la Musica (Valencia), Teatro Castellar (Castellon, Spain), La Monnaie (Royal Opera House, Belgium), Opera du Rhin (Strasbourg), amongst others.  In 2009, she returned to NZ and since, has performed frequently with NZ Opera, the NZ Symphony Orchestra, APO, CPO and the ACS, as well as performing locally with the Napier Civic Choir.

In 2014, together with long-time friend Sarah Walmsley, Anna founded Festival Opera – Opera with a conscience, and Project Prima Volta, the music programme dedicated to draw teenagers from diverse backgrounds together, to help them find common ground through music preparation and performance. 5 years on, and the vision is as strong as ever, and the programme growing in profile.

Basing the programme and opera company in Hawke’s Bay, enables Anna and her team, to offer a world class opportunity to the wealth of young local talent and excite their audiences into supporting their achievements, both on and offstage.

Anna is also a Trustee on the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, which reinforces her commitment to developing young artists ‘from grassroots to excellence’.


Catherine Pierard, Mezzosoprano

New Zealand Aria Under 21

CATHERINE PIERARD has pursued an international career as an established concert and recording artist. A specialist in both early and contemporary vocal music she has been a  frequent soprano soloist at the Proms, the South Bank, and major British and European Festivals, 

Catherine worked with the Glyndebourne Festival and Touring Opera and English Touring Opera in the roles of Fiordiligi and Donna Elvira. Other roles include Ariadne in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Queen Elizabeth in Britten’s Gloriana, Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Stravinski’s Oedipus Rex, Berlioz’ Faust and Beatrice et Benedict, Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s War and Peace, Handel’s Apollo and Daphne, Handel’s Julius Cesare, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Caccini’s Euridice, Gluck’s Orfeo, Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride, Handel’s Alceste, Britten’s Rape of Lucretia and Monteverdi’s Poppea.

Commercial discs to date are the critically acclaimed Herbert Howells’ songs (Chandos) with Julius Drake; Monteverdi arias (Hyperion); Monteverdi’s Poppea with Hickox (Virgin Classics); Thomas Arne’s Alfred (BBC Music); Mozart’s The Magic Flute with Norrington (EMI); Britten’s Rape of Lucretia with Hickox (Chandos); award-winning Purcell’s Dioclesian – The Masque and Dioclesian Acts I-IV with Hickox and the Collegium Musicum 90 (Chandos); and Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with Norrington and the London Classical Players (EMI).

She has also recorded regularly for BBC Radio 3, adjudicated national exams and competitions both in the UK and NZ, and is much in demand as a coach for chamber music and young singers.


Timua Te Kowhai

Maori Song Classes

Timua Te Kowhai is a New Zealand Maori; her tribal affiliations are: Te Arawa, Tuwharetoa and Ngai Tahu.

Timua is a graduate with her Masters of Music with first class honours in Voice, at Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Permanently residing in Rotorua, Timua has won many scholarships to further her musical studies in Voice. She received many scholarships and grants to pursue her musical education in Italy. This led to invitations where she had a two week extensive concert recital in Rome, Sicily and Tuscany, with a special performance for the New Zealand Ambassador, Julie McKenzie and invited guests in Rome. In Sicily Palermo, Timua and her group Canti Maori were the guest of Princess Constanza. All managed by Patricia Hurley Opera Tours.

Further concert recitals followed in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing China.

Timua has performed in all the major cities and Town Halls throughout New Zealand, with the Auckland Philharmonia, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Chamber Music, New Zealand String Orchestra, Devonport Chamber Orchestra.

Timua has performed numerous indoor and outdoor concerts, both nationally and internationally. She is a regular performer in ‘Opera In The Pa – Rotorua’. She had the honour and privilege of singing God Save The Queen, Whakaria Mai and the National Anthem for the National Memorial Service for the Christchurch Earthquake in March 2011. His Royal Highness Prince William, Prime Minister John Keys, Prime Minister Julia Gulliard and many other MP’s were in attendance, with an audience of over 200,000 and broadcast live throughout Australasia.

She has performed a solo waiata Pokarekare Ana to His Royal Highness Prince Andrew on Mokoia Island, Rotorua. As a result of Timua’s performance in Christchurch, she was invited to perform at the CCTV Bao Forum Festival in Beijing China two weeks later, to a live audience of 300 million Asians.

She has performed on many occasions with the late Sir Howard Morrison and on the Good Morning Breakfast Show, to celebrate his 75th Birthday.

Master of Ceremonies

Helen Medlyn MNZM

Master of Ceremonies, New Zealand Aria Finals Night

One of New Zealand’s most versatile and popular singer-actresses, Helen Medlyn is a respected performer of opera, jazz, straight theatre, oratorio, cabaret, lieder and music theatre, appearing as a guest soloist with most arts organisations here in New Zealand, as well as with many of the major opera companies and orchestras in Australia.

In recognition of her career and her continuing body of work, Helen was honoured as a Laureate by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand in 2002 and made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the performing arts in 2013.

A few highlights from Helen’s unusually diverse “life upon the wicked

stage” include Joy Gresham in Nicholson’s play Shadowlands (Mercury); Concepcion in Ravel’s The Spanish Hour (NZO); Alice, a mono-drama, written especially for Helen by Gillian Whitehead (NZSO, APO); Mrs Rieper/Mrs Parker in Forster’s play Daughters of Heaven (Watershed); Flosshilde and Schwertleite in Pierre Strosser’s production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (SOSA); the Wicked Witch of the West in Arlen’s musical The Wizard of Oz (Peach Theatre Company); Klytemnestra in Strauss’ opera Elektra (APO); Fraulein Schneider in Kander and Ebb’s show, Cabaret (ATC); Handel’s Messiah with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra; and the shows she creates and presents with pianist, Penny Dodd.



Conductor, New Zealand Aria Finals Night

Giordano Bellincampi is the Music Director of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra. Born in Italy and moving to Copenhagen at a young age, he began his career as a trombonist with the Royal Danish Orchestra before making his professional conducting debut in 1994. Previously, he was the Principal Conductor of I Pomeriggi Musicali, Milan, General Music Director of the Duisburg Philharmonic from 2012-2017, General Music Director of the Danish National Opera, Aarhus from 2005-2013, Music Director of the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra from 2000-2006 and, between 1997-2000 he was Chief Conductor of the Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, the leading contemporary ensemble in Denmark.

With an enormous repertoire embracing classical, romantic and contemporary music, he is particularly celebrated for his prowess in the Central European, Italian and Scandinavian symphonic traditions, and for his interpretations of significant choral and vocal works. In 2015, he focused on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Carl Nielsen, performing a wide selection of his works both in Denmark and abroad.

Highlights of recent seasons have included concert performances of Verdi’s Otello and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut with the Auckland Philharmonia, and with the Duisburg Philharmonic gala performances of Wagner’s operatic and orchestral music to mark the re-opening of the orchestra’s home in Duisburg’s Mercatorhalle. He also had a highly acclaimed visit to Amsterdam’s legendary Concertgebouw Hall, with repertoire by Nielsen, Sibelius and Beethoven.

In the 17/18 season, he brings major repertoire to Auckland and Kristiansand, including a concert performance of Aida in Auckland and staged performances of La Traviata with the Kristiansand Opera. He returns to the Athelas Sinfonietta and I Pommerigi Musicali Milan, and conducts four programmes with the Toledo Symphony.

As Associate Professor at the Royal Danish Academy Giordano Bellincampi is dedicated to the work of educating future generations of orchestra musicians and conductors. He also regularly gives masterclasses and serves as a jury member for a number of international conducting competitions. In 2010, he was made a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog, an award bestowed by the Danish Royal Family for services to Danish culture, and he also holds the title of ‘Cavaliere’ from the President of Italy for his international promotion of Italian music.