Just five years after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and possible extinction, the Annapolis Opera has become one of the most active repertory companies in Maryland.
Last fall, there was a Maryland Hall production of Verdi's "La Traviata" that was beautifully mounted and creditably sung.
Tomorrow at 8 p.m., the company will hold its seventh annual vocal competition at Key Auditorium on the campus of St. John's College. Eight singers from across the state will compete for prize money and future engagements with the local ensemble.
Two performers who won recognition at last year's competition -- Amy Van Roekel, a sparkling lyric soprano, and dramatic tenor Christopher Petrucelli -- will be vying with six newcomers for the $750 top prize. As usual, the listeners will have their say: The Aris Allen Prize will be awarded to the audience's favorite singer.
Word of the local competition has gotten out in opera circles. The Gerda Lissner Foundation, a New York City arts endowment dedicated to helping the careers of talented young singers, has invited the Annapolis winner to the Big Apple for a round of special auditions to be held later this year.
The Annapolis Opera's series of musicales is also going great guns under the direction of the company's producer, Michael Begley. These programs of arias organized along various thematic lines are in great demand across the state.
On March 5, the opera visits Oakland Manor in Howard County for an afternoon of Viennese favorites.
"Opera at the Movies" will be presented at 4 p.m. March 9 at the South County Senior Center, 27 Stepneys Lane, Edgewater. For the occasion, Mr. Begley has fashioned a program of arias heard in hit films such as "Moonstruck," "Fatal Attraction" and "Philadelphia."
"Gems from Comic Operas" is set for 4 p.m. April 23 at the Ginger Cove Retirement Community. This program will consist of hit arias and duets from such operas as Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" and "L'Elisir d'amore."
On May 14, Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis will be the setting for "Mother's Day in Paris," a program of frothy French favorites and assorted arias from operas set in the French capital.
"We are really spreading out and taking our show on the road," said Thea Lindauer, the Annapolis Opera's indomitable godmother. "We take very seriously our responsibility to involve as many people as we can with opera."
That spirit of outreach is expressed in other ways.
This year, for the first time, more than 100 Anne Arundel County high school students were invited by the company to attend the dress rehearsal of "La Traviata" free of charge.
Never content with the status quo even when things are relatively rosy, Mrs. Lindauer is already pushing for the day Annapolis can become the home of "Opera in the Park," an outdoor summer festival she hopes to inaugurate if corporate funding can be found.
"What a nice way that would be for businesses to say thank you to their patrons," she said, with a twinkle in her eye. "Let me tell you what a pleasure it is to be projecting and planning all the way ahead to 1997!"