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FHHS Music Academy Visits the Metropolitan Opera

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Forest Hills High School’s music academy students sat in awe at the stunning production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera in the Lincoln Center on Jan. 8.

The Metropolitan Opera | Madama Butterfly by KEN HOWARD

Set in the late 19th century, the opera tells the story of a lovelorn geisha in Nagasaki who is abandoned by an American navy lieutenant. The opera ends with Butterfly taking her life, similar to the samurai way of dying with honor. This opera explores themes of love, heartbreak, betrayal and cultural differences. For Mr. Arzberger, Director of the Symphonic Concert Band and the Advanced Percussion Ensemble at Hills, the opera is a great way for students to get culture, especially living in New York City. 

In a voice filled with esteem, Arzberger states that “the opera is the culmination of all arts – as it incorporates drama, singing, acting, dancing, visual arts and music.” 

He understands that the opera may not be everybody’s cup of tea. 

“It’s the equivalent of bringing somebody to a restaurant. You hope that they’ll taste the food and they may say, ‘I’ve never had Italian food before. Now, I know what it is. Will I go back? Depending on my taste but at least I sampled something.’ To me, that’s what music is. It’s a big variety of sampling things.”

Mr. Arzberger, who also teaches music theory in levels 1 and 3, explains that he teaches music not necessarily because he wants students to like everything.

“We want you to understand everything. The more you’re exposed to things, you’ll become more sympathetic in understanding,” Arzberger shares with The Beacon.  

The students are handpicked from the various ensembles. These students practice, show promise, always attend class, do the right thing, and see some type of music success in the future, regardless if they are music majors or not. 

Jake Tampubolon, a senior in the music academy who plays percussion instruments, shares that the invitation to the opera and appreciation from his music teacher has had an uplifting effect on him.

“I’ve always felt special in his class. I genuinely like Mr. Arzberger and his passion for music. I think he sees a passion for music in me as well so that’s why we greatly respect each other.”

Upon entering, students are surrounded by red staircases, beautiful red seating, sparkling Austrian chandeliers made up of thousands of Swarovski crystals, and a dazzling gilded ceiling. 

The Metropolitan Opera House Chandeliers (Nadine Jamora)
The Metropolitan Opera Auditorium (Nadine Jamora)

Radiance Jiang, a senior who has previously attended an opera with Mr. Arzberger, expresses her admiration for the music house. “Stepping foot inside was a surreal feeling. It’s a historical place and it was a privilege being there.” 

As a student in the music academy who plays the violin in the symphonic orchestra, she states that the opera is not just for singers. 

“There is something for everyone. I play the violin so I paid more attention to the quality of the orchestra rather than the singing. As musicians, we’re always trying to find ways to enhance and develop our skills. The opera is another form of music I can learn from,” Jiang reports to The Beacon.

Forest Hills High School’s partnership with The Metropolitan Opera granted us three tickets for chaperones and 30 tickets for students to see any of the operas offered to us by the program director.

Tampubolon, senior, has attended two operas with Mr. Arzberger. The opera has been a form of inspiration for him. 

“I like singing on the side. I want to be like that – a big performer, a big singer – and listening to operas always opens my ears and inspires me to continue singing.”

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About the Contributor
Nadine Jamora
Nadine Jamora, Feature Section Editor
Nadine is a feature writer for The Beacon's 2023-2024 school year. She is a senior in the music program. She is an Alto for the school's concert choir and is a student leader for Forest Hills High School's Filipino Club. What she enjoys most about The Beacon is the ability to explore and take on new challenges. Outside of school, she is an avid reader and writer.
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