When an opera company plunges into the heart of Italian verismo literature, it should be sure that it is able to cope with the strenuous demands of the music and the drama. Despite its local status, the Prince George's Civic Opera managed nicely on most counts last night with two of the more gripping entries in that great late Romantic genre.

Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci" and Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana," both one-act operas, are from the late 19th century, the Golden Age of "real-life" tragedy in opera. Both plots involve stabbings, rejected loves and the usual sampling of lust.

Several of the solo voices were pleasing and showed the signs of careful preparation. "I Pagliacci" fared well, with Donald Hamrick's Canio, Milagros Williams' Nedda and David Troup's Tonio emerging as fully developed characters. Stylistically and technically they were suited for the most discriminating house. The voices were colorful, clear and sensitive to the heart-wrenching scores. Marguerita Kris, Santuzza in "Cavalleria," was also noteworthy.

Many of the chorus scenes were a bit chaotic, and the singing lacked direction and cohesiveness. The orchestra, under the direction of James Meena, was fair at best, although Mascagni's rustic tunes were not severely affected. The village sets, however, were inviting.

The double bill will be presented again tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Prince George's Community College's Queen Anne Auditorium.