The name of Christina Fox, one of the stars of the Prince George's Opera company's production of "Alceste," was misspelled in a caption in Saturday's Style section.

Tuesday evening - four days to opening night. The Prince George's Opera company is having a full rehearsal with artistic director Rosemary Steeg at the piano (rehearsals with orchestra are expensive).

King Admetus of Thessaly is in chinos with a green, striped jersey. One chorus member has a T-shirt that proclaims her a "Foxy Lady." Later, she will be a lost soul, trying to wheedle her way across the River Styx.

Staging the American premiere of "Alceste," a 300-year-old French opera, is a gamble, and this group operates with little margin for error.

At the Metropolitan, mounting a completely new production can cost around a million dollars. The Washington Opera Company can do it for about one-fifth that amount. In Prince George's County, a new opera production costs less than a Cadillac Coupe de Ville.

"For this production," says Rosemary Steeg, "we had an approved budget of $13,000. But I don't think we're going to be able to get that much money, so we have to cut back expenses to about $11,000."

"Chris Cade [the stage director] thought we needed an extra dancer," adds conductor-arranger Bruce Steeg, "so he's paying the added expenses out of his own pocket. I'm paying for the extra violinist."

The Prince George's Civic Opera Company is a small, regional organization affiliated with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, supported largely by private donations and principally by the Carozza Foundation.

Stripped to its essentials, it is a permanaent chorus of about 20, with a board of directors, a conductor and an artistic director, and a small group of people (suburban housewives, school-teachers, businessmen) who paint scenery, sew costumes and set up the lighting. Most members of the chorus also help with the carpentry and painting.

There are about a dozen small companies like this within driving distance of Washington, and they are part of a national phenomenon that is changing the face of opera in this country.

They are building audiences, from the ground up, who are attracted by the music rather than by internationally famous voices. And they are making it possible for American singers to become seasoned performers without going off to work in Europe for five years.

Bruce Steeg finds that refitting Jean-Baptiste Lully's "Alceste" for a modern performance is "just like putting together a Broadway show" - he's done that too, - "the exact same process: cutting, pasting together, making last-minute changes."

In its original performance, "Alceste" ran five hours ("we think that's long, but they took orgy breaks at the intermissions," Rosemary observes). Tonight, it will take just under two; even with an English narration to help the audience keep track of what's happening.

The printed score of "Alceste," as it came from the hands of Lully in 1674, has 335 pages. Buried in these pages is a powerful story with powerful music, about a love stronger than death."

It is wrapped in trimmings that were box-office magic at Versailles (where Louis XIV was the box office), but could really bomb in Prince George's County today: ballet sequences designed to let Louis show off his dancing abilities (the King reportedly had excellent legs), a long monologue by something called "Glory," assorted nymphs, fountains, that are turned magically into naiads.

"May the songs of birds join with the sweet sound of the oboes," warble Glory and the Nymph of the Seine in one duet.

May they? In Prince George's County, they may not.

The style echoes the fashions of the time - wigs and lots of lace and very formal manners. People didn't bathe very often at Versailles; they put on more powder. There is real substance in the opera that came out of this milieu, but it needs a good scrubbing.

Working together, the Steegs and Cade have trimmed away 100 pages and have come up with a work of art. No more nymphs, and only ballet that really belongs. king Louis would be disappointed, but Prince George may be happy.

"When you do a work like this," says Rosemary Steeg, "you walk a tightrope between success for the work and being faithful to the era and the composer - and you must recall that the audience comes to the work without background knowledge and you owe them a good evening in the theater. It can't be a museum piece; it has to be a living work of musical theater.

"This is a great opera; it has magnificent music, a timeless love story, lots of sex and violence, you're crazy.

"There are problems in going around telling people you are putting on a 300-year-old opera and want them to help - but the cast and chorus are excited, and so am I. I think it's a great work that deserve to be heard.

"If there is any opera that I want to have remembered as Rosemary's baby, 'Alceste is it.'"