The Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia has a perfectly delightful production of Offenbach's "La Perichole" on its hands. It opened at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre in Arlington last night and is to close after tonight's performance, but, given the lavishness of the costumes and the specific character of the set, it is reasonable to hope that the production will be mounted again soon for a longer run.

Under the direction of Terry Glaser and conducted by John Edward Niles, this performance, done in an excellent English translation, avoided the shortcomings of so many small regional operatic endeavors. The cast was uniformly strong, led by baritone Paul Berkolds, who was a marvelously funny Viceroy. Other fine performances were turned in by James Harp as Don Pedro, Joseph Myering as the first count of the bedchamber, and the two crossed, if not star-crossed, lovers, Kristine Miller as Perichole and Michael Fiacco as her humorless Paquillo.

Niles assembled a reliable small orchestra that sounded well rehearsed. The dancing was smooth and the chorus business uniformly well conceived. The lighting, particulary in the dungeon scene, was highly effective.

Offenbach was a superb humorist who exploited the full range of comic metaphors of his time. The attractive thing about this production was how successfully these well-worn idioms were integrated with fresh comic turns. That it all worked so well is a testimony to imaginative direction, splendid acting, and energy that suffused the whole production.