ARTicle Magazine

Five Questions for Head Lexus Judge Lisa Gasteen

12 July 2018

Opera star and teacher Lisa Gasteen is the lead judge of the Lexus Song Quest 2018.  We asked Lisa what qualities she will be looking for in the five young hopefuls, and if there was any upside to an unexpected break in her career.

Lisa Gasteen

Experience Aotearoa's most glittering night of Opera at the Lexus Song Quest Grand Final Gala at the Auckland Town Hall on Saturday 28 July. 

How did you get your start in the opera world?

One of our early mentors at the Queensland Conservatory, Donald Smith, used to say "you don't choose singing, singing chooses you" and that was true for me.  I was in a job which held no interest for me and I was considering journalism or vocal studies and I chose voice because I thought 'well I know I can sing so that makes sense'.  After my first year at the Con I was hooked.

"One of our early mentors ... Donald Smith, used to say "you don't choose singing, singing chooses you" and that was true for me."

You took an enforced break from performing in 2009, after a pinched nerve affected adversely your singing. Was there any upside to taking this break?

When my injury happened in 2009 I had already mentally moved away from my career.  I was booked up to the end of 2013 after which time I intended to decline any further offers so it just accelerated my retirement.  After that any performances I gave were of my own choice and it was a great feeling to actually sing on my terms - because I wanted to, or had a particular interest in the work.  It was a completely different experience as I didn't suffer nerves.  I had already lost my career so that couldn't happen again.  I wasn't concerned with perfection or what people thought and I didn't have to partner with people I'd rather not. It was liberating.  

Is there a single experience you consider to be the highlight of your career to date? If so, what was it?

If I had to single out only one highlight of my career it would be my Covent Garden debut which came well into my career.  I was already singing in the USA and the German houses and was well established at home and elsewhere.  I was very gratified to sing the Everest of soprano roles in a house which I felt had overlooked me for too long.  The curtain calls for the last performance were memorable for the outpouring of love and excitement directed towards him.  We were showered with daffodils.  His face reflected a mixture of so many things.

What qualities will you be looking for among the contestants when you are judging the 2018 Lexus Song Quest?

I will be looking for recipients who I believe are the most promising.  It will be difficult I am sure to choose one winner in what I can see is a strong field.  Most of them will have careers so what it comes down to in the end is as always,  personal preference and personal response. 

"It will be difficult I am sure to choose one winner in what I can see is a strong field"

Any pro tips on how young singers should best look after their voices? 

My advice to young singers include the usual don't smoke, avoid speaking above loud background noise, stay hydrated, sleep well if you can.  But probably the most important things to look to are mental health and vocal technique.  They are both closely intertwined.

Find out more about the Lexus Song Quest here.