Pulitzer Prize-winning American dramatist Terrence McNally's opera-inspired 1985 play The Lisbon Traviata will receive its long-awaited British premiere this autumn. It opens for a limited six-week season at north London's King's Head Theatre on 17 November 2003, continuing to 21 December (previews from 11 November).

In The Lisbon Traviata, opera buff Mendy begs his friend Stephen, a blocked playwright whose partner Mike is cheating on him, to borrow his pirated recording of diva Maria Callas (pictured) singing La Traviata at a performance in Lisbon, Portugal. Beneath their aficionado banter, both men are deeply unhappy, trapped in an operatic world where contrived passions become a neurotic substitute for real life.

McNally has previously found inspiration in the life of Callas with his Master Class, which won a Tony Award in 1996. His many other award-winning plays include Love! Valour! Compassion!, A Perfect Ganesh, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Corpus Christi and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which is expected in the West End later this year (See Today's Goss). He's also written the books for such hit musicals as Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Visit, Ragtime, The Full Monty and A Man of No Importance.

The London production of The Lisbon Traviata will be directed by Stephen Henry whose previous credits include McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! and the 1999 European premiere of his highly controversial Corpus Christi as well as the recent West End revival of Julian Mitchell's Another Country.

The Lisbon Traviata will be designed by Lisa Lillywhite, with lighting by Hartley TA Kemp and sound by Sebastian Frost. The Theatre 28 production is produced by Kevin Wilson and Sarah Earl.

Currently at the King's Head, another opera-inspired production, Ian Bloomfield's musical A Comedy of Arias, continues until 31 August 2003.

- by Terri Paddock