New Zealand tenor, and one third of Sol3Mio, carries off 12,000 euros.

Darren Pene Pati has won first prize in the Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition in the Spanish city of Zaragosa. The New Zealand tenor knocked the jury out with his seemingly effortless interpretation of the taxing Ah, lève-toi, soleil from Act II of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Pati, shortly to be heard in Sydney as one third of the popular vocal group Sol3Mio, is now 12,000 euros better off – that’s nearly $18,000 Australian.

A remarkable 304 singers began the preliminary rounds last Sunday with only 14 reaching the final where they were judged by Roger Alier, Juan Pons, Justino Diaz, Carlos Caballé and Fernando Sans Rivière.

An audience of about 700 people saw Montserrat Caballé award the prizes. The legendary soprano, who has had problems of late with both her health and her income tax returns, made the usual remarks about an “exciting and memorable contest” and how the jury had had “great difficulty in choosing a winner”. She received an ovation however when she took to the floor to declare that this year’s contest marked the 50th anniversary of her marriage to the Aragonese tenor Bernabé Martí.

The second prize of 6000 euros went to the Korean soprano Seoyung Park who sang an aria from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera while third prize and 3,000 euros went jointly to local soprano Ruth Iniesta and French soprano Anaïs Constans.

Limelight readers should be familiar with Darren Pene Pati who featured in our July issue 30 under 30 feature as one of the young singers to watch. We were lucky enough to hear him at the recent fundraiser for the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Foundation when he sang the Pearl Fisher’s Duet with his cousin Moses Mackay, O Soave Fanciulla from La Bohème with Opera Australia star soprano Nicole Car and rounded the event off with a rousing Nessun Dorma.

Catching up with Darren and Moses in Sydney prior to the event they talked to Limelight about founding their hugely successful trio Sol3Mio back in New Zealand along with Darren’s brother Amitai Pati – currently part of the young artists program in Salzburg. All three young singers, who are of Samoan descent, are working in various cities overseas but come together to sing as Sol3Mio whenever they can. Darren has flown in from San Francisco where he is a part of the SF Opera program. Moses has been training in Wales with Dennis O’Neill – a significant teacher in all of their lives, especially a year or so ago when all three coincided at his famous Cardiff Academy. Both Moses and Darren have also been influenced and encouraged by that other great nurturer of talent, Richard Bonynge.

Oddly enough the cousins only got together at University, having grown up on opposite sides of Auckland. It was only when they started bumping into one another in choirs that they figured out that they were actually related by marriage. From there it was a short step to forming their trio to sing the music they so clearly adore – a mix of classical favourites and Samoan popular song. It has an ad hoc feel – they admit to rehearing more by osmosis than by anything else – but it seems to work as anyone who saw them warming up the teams at the Anzac Test will vouch.

SOL3 MIO will be performing at the Star Event Centre, Sydney on October 22.

Limelight have 10 Platinum Double Passes to give away to SOL3 MIO’s Sydney performance. Simply enter our Prize Draw to be in with a chance of winning.