OPERA INTERNATIONAL, in its sixth year, is a small company with a big name. It has a modest budget and a short season--one production given in two performances in August, when most other opera companies are on vacation and good singers tend to be free of other commitments. This year's opera could hardly be more international--vocal coach Rainer Armbrust came over from Germany, soprano Haibo Bai and baritone Sun Yu are from China, bass Yu Hsi Bai is from Taiwan, tenor Giancarlo Bacigalupo from Peru, and conductor Edward Roberts, director Muriel von Villas, tenor Drew Slatton and baritone Jason Stearns come from the United States. This afternoon the company will close its season with a performance of Puccini's "Tosca," a violent tale of revolutionary aspirations, love, jealousy, lust and violent death in Napoleonic-era Rome--one of the half-dozen most popular operas of all time. In the best operatic tradition, nearly everyone dies.
At Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. Today at 4 p.m. $30-$45. Call 202-432-SEAT for tickets and 301-365-3479 for information.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK ONCE SAID he could never make a historical film because he couldn't imagine people in those costumes going to the bathroom. Well, here's another question along the same line: If somebody were to hold an all-day seminar for Hitchcock fans, how would they go to the bathroom? Trust the Smithsonian to think of everything. It turns out that between segments of "The Ultimate Hitchcock" there are helpful little breaks. Whew! Anyhow, it's this Saturday, in celebration of the 100th birthday of the suspense master, and taught by film historian Max Alvarez. The segments include "What Made Hitchcock Hitchcock?," "Signature Hitchcock," "Hitchcock the Craftsman" and "Hitchcock the Jester." Clips to be shown come from "The Lodger," "Rebecca," "The Birds," "Frenzy" and "Psycho," among others.
At the Dillon Ripley Center Lecture Hall, Third Floor, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. General admission, $80. Call 202-357-3030 or visit www.si.edu/activity/events/ calendar.htm.
LIGHTS, ACTION, SPIELBERG! Yes, His Stevenness, the great director, will appear in public this Wednesday at the Smithsonian for a celebration of his career. A contract director at Universal at the age of 18, Steven Spielberg has not only been the movies' box office champ but has used his position to make films that edify, provoke and educate. He is middlebrow at its most noble, and the Smithsonian will salute him in this program, which climaxes (after clips and an interview with Time critic Richard Schickel) with the presentation of the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal. Afterward there's a reception in the Great Hall.
7 p.m. Wednesday at the National Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. General-admission tickets are $55 (tribute only) and $160 (tribute and reception). Call 202-357-3030 or visit www.si.edu/activity/events/calendar.htm
ONE SPRING NIGHT 11 years ago, Margaret Mee kept an all-night vigil in the depths of the Amazon, hoping to witness the rare "moonflower" cactus in bloom. A skilled artist and amateur botanist, Mee traveled to the jungles of South America 15 times during a span of 30 years, discovering and painting a wide range of flora and fauna. Mee's vigil that night, during her final trip to the Amazon, proved fruitful. Her carefully constructed watercolor of Selenicereus wittii shows five flowers in varying states of bloom, the thin white petals stretching up from a mass of green and pink leaves. In her diary Mee wrote that she was "humbled by the experience" of watching the plant, which blooms for only one night. The British-born artist's drawings, field sketchbooks and diaries are on view at the National Museum of Natural History in "Margaret Mee: Return to the Amazon."
10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. Through Aug. 22. 202-357-2700.
NEVILLE GARRICK'S LONG JOURNEY to his spiritual homeland is told in "A Rasta's Pilgrimage: Ethiopian Faces and Places." Garrick, the former art and lighting director for Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley, first visited Ethiopia in the early '90s, when he headed the Bob Marley Foundation, but his journey began many years earlier when he was first drawn to the Rastafarian religion, which views Ethiopia as a spiritual sanctuary and its former ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie, as the Rastafarian messiah. Garrick's new book contains 118 color photographs of the people and astounding sites like Tissisat Falls (which produces multiple rainbows) and the castles of Gondard. Garrick will appear at a book signing and photo exhibit featuring 40 enlarged images from "A Rasta's Pilgrimage." Also on hand will be Jamaican Ambassador Richard Bernal and Rastafari Nyabingi drummers, who will open the event.
At Zanzibar on the Waterfront, 700 Water St. SW. Today at 4 p.m. Free. 202-722-0545.