- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

For many teen-agers, the idea of opera conjures up images of buxom women with horned helmets and blonde braids, belting out songs in some foreign language for hours on end.
They see opera as entertainment for the rich and the old. Many would rather tune in the latest boy-band pleaser or rap song than sit through an aria.
But it's a different story in Rockville, in the classroom of Richard Montgomery High School music teacher Ron Frezzo. During the past three years, two of his students have won top honors in a national opera quiz, a series of tests that even the most dedicated opera lover might struggle with.
The trick, Mr. Frezzo said during a break between choral practice and his next class, is to show teens what they are missing.
"The majority of people would not be exposed to it at this age," he said. "But if you take them to the opera, 90 percent of them end up liking it," he said.
Using the resources of the nearby Washington Opera's educational department, Mr. Frezzo has introduced hundreds of students to works by the likes of Guiseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini.
He has also turned Richard Montgomery into a national opera powerhouse of sorts, sending several students to the final rounds of the ChevronTexaco Opera Quiz Kids competition for high school students.
One of the three national finalists this year is Richard Montgomery junior Susan "Stevie" Miller, a 16-year-old who survived three rounds earlier this year in Washington and Houston. Along the way, she beat out hundreds of other students from a dozen other regions in the United States and Canada.
Susan now moves on to test her opera knowledge against the two other high school finalists on April 6 during a live national broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
She may have had a slight edge over some of her previous competitors. Her family is filled with opera buffs, including her father and grandparents. Operatic music is on at her home all the time, and her grandparents explained the plot of "Madame Butterfly" to her when she was just six.
"To me knowing the little bits of trivia makes opera that much more interesting," she said.


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