She goes wherever she can get work -- an oratorio here or there, a few times to Carnegie Hall, 10 times to the Kennedy Center, other times to the Paul Hill Chorale. Today, it's Florida. But last night, it was the Turkish Embassy.

She is one of six singers from the Summer Opera Theatre Company who sang spiritedly an hour of the best of opera in a benefit performance before the board members of the fledgling -- started last summer -- opera company, invited guests, and hosts Ambassador Sukru Elekdag and his wife, Selma.

That performance was followed by another 15-minute one -- not quite as exciting as the first -- by the executive director, Elaine Walter, who told people that local opera companies not only are important for local up-and-coming talents, but are also expensive.

"It felt like a sermon," said one guest, rolling her eyes. But money is important for these things.

"I wish it grew on trees," lamented Kay Shouse, founder of Wolf Trap, and a guest last night of board member Mary Brown. "The Joffrey Ballet is in trouble. Many art groups are in trouble. I'm frightened about the future, because of the economic situation." Shouse herself makes an effort to help out economically with "as many things as I can."

Most everyone else was not very visibly frightened -- not even the young commodites broker from Miami who lost a scant $35,000 in silver last week and whose clients collectively lost about a million. "Gold and silver are still the way to go," he pronounced nonchalantly. (His mother is a Summer Opera board member.)

The rest talked a little about opera and nibbled a lot on the sumptuous buffet of meats and grape leaves and sweets.

"I love my job," said Michael Cordonana, smiling over grape leaves. He is in charge of voice programs at Catholic University and coaches the Summer Opera Company, which is in residence at (but independent from) Catholic U.

Opera can be a demanding career.

When Marianna Busching, the singer bound for Florida today, moved to Washington, she changed her name from Mary Ann. "My manager said double names don't sell," Busching said.

Apparently, it also doesn't sell in opera to tell your age.

"No, no, no -- no age," said Glenn Cunningham, smiling. "They judge you harshly on your age in opera. People get the idea that certain songs are good at certain ages and that people should be at certain places in their careers at certain ages."

Summer Opera will perform twice this summer at the Hartke Theatre. From June 25 through July 6, the company will do "Madame Butterfly," and from July 16 through July 27, "The Merry Widow." Tickets are $5 each.