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Two operas. In nine days. That, in a nutshell, is Opera Company of North Carolina's 2002 "season," and it gets underway this weekend with two performances of La Traviata (pictured) at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Whether you're an opera buff or not, Verdi's consumptive courtesan should be familiar: In 1937, director George Cukor adapted the Alexandre Dumas play it was based on and gave the world Greta Garbo as Camille. In Paris of the 1700s, counter-cultural love walks hand in hand with doom--and there's no such thing as "a little cough."

Next week marks the return of Starbird, a children's work that the Opera Company first brought to Raleigh in 1999. Designed by composer Henry Mollicone to be a child's first opera, its popularity guaranteed this return trip. After losing their jobs to technology, a trio of animals is abducted by visiting aliens from Arcturus, but they find a friend in the unlikely title character--a bird whose wings have been changed to metal and whose veins now run with mercury. Can they escape the clutches of their captors, and learn important lessons about teamwork and friendship in the bargain? You betcha. Next Wednesday through Saturday at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Call 831-6011 for details. --Byron Woods

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