Opera is again returning to Orange County this month, thanks to the Pacific Symphony's three-year "Symphonic Voices" opera-vocal initiative that's bringing the high-class art form to local audiences since the closing of Opera Pacific in 2008.

Last year, it was three acclaimed, sold-out nights of Puccini's "La Bohéme." This year, it's "Tosca," another Puccini classic that brings the Pacific Symphony onstage, front and center, alongside the singers in the Italian libretto.

Carl St.Clair, the symphony's longtime director who also has had a long opera conducting career in Europe, leads from the podium in the three productions on Feb. 21, 23 and 26. All the 8 p.m. concerts in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, are preceded by a 7 p.m. preview talk with musicologist Alan Chapman.

"As with 'La Bohéme,' I wanted to choose an opera that has an amazing orchestral score, and 'Tosca' certainly has that," St.Clair said in a release. "The drama and absolute tragedy of the opera are so well depicted and well illustrated in the orchestral score that not only do you have incredible arias, duets, ensembles and choral scenes, but you also have an orchestra right onstage bringing it all alive."

Claire Rutter, a British soprano singer, plays Tosca. She made her U.S. debut alongside the Dallas Opera in Mozart's "Così fan tutte" and is a former principal with the Scottish Opera. The Pacific Chorale and Southern California Children's Chorus will also accompany the symphony and singers.

Eric Einhorn is directing "Tosca," with lighting design by Kathy Pryzgoda, scenes by Julia Noulin-Mérat and digital media by Paul DiPierro. Keeping with the "semi-staged" style, the concert hall will have projected scenes with some props and costumes.

Tickets start at $25. For more information, call (714) 755-5799 or visit http://www.pacificsymphony.org.

In other symphony news, the application period for OC Can You Play With Us? is open once again. The program, now in its third year, gives amateur musicians from all over the chance to play alongside the professionals and St.Clair in a concert at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Last year, the music was a few selections from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" ballet. I polished off my French horn and wrote about the experience. In short, it was a lot of fun, and I recommend others to dust off their instruments (if they haven't played them in a while) and join the orchestra, if only for one night.

This year the music is the fourth movement of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony.

There is a rehearsal March 9, with practicing alongside the whole group and individual sections, at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods.

Spots for the concerts on April 8 and 9 are first-come, first-served. The registration fee is $60 and can be done online at http://www.pacificsymphony.org. For more information, contact Kelli Rust with the symphony at krust@pacificsymphony.org call (714) 876-2386.

BRADLEY ZINT is a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at bradley.zint@latimes.com.

If You Go

What: "Tosca," a Pacific Symphony opera-vocal production of the Puccini classic

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 21, 23 and 26

Where: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall within the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

How Much: Tickets start at $25.

For more information: Visit http://www.pacificsymphony.org or call (714) 755-5799