The first time soprano Sondra Radvanovsky sang at the Kennedy Center, she made her Washington National Opera debut as Lucrezia Borgia. Now, she returns as Anna Bolena, another character Donizetti fills with pathos, passion and the bel canto passages that illuminate Radvanovsky's signature sound.

"Both roles are very similar in that Anna has a lot of temperament, is a historical figure and her arias are musically wonderful," Radvanovsky said. "I always try to find the humanity in a character and look for what will touch the audience. It's nice to have a character I can dig my teeth into and to be singing in a house I'm familiar with.

"I've been known as a Verdi and Puccini specialist, so when my coach told me in 2008 to look into bel canto roles, I was surprised, but I enjoyed moving into Donizetti with 'Lucrezia' and singing Bellini's 'Norma.' Now that I'm singing 'Anna Bolena' in Washington and will be making a role debut as Donizetti's 'Maria Stuarda' in Balboa next season," she said. "... it's nice to have variety, I like taking characters out of my pocket and dusting them off occasionally. It's fun to sing Puccini's 'Tosca' in between Verdi's Lenore in 'Il Trovatore.' 'Tosca' is all spit and fire, while Leonora is a wallflower."

Since winning the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions in 1995, and graduating from its Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Radvanovsky has sung major roles there dozens of times and is one of the divas most appreciated by audiences at major opera houses around the world for her Italian specialties. Her unique, dusky soprano voice is equally effective in recital and concert formats.

'Anna Bolena'
» Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St. NW
» When: Saturday through Oct. 6
» Info: $25 to $300; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324;

"People want to see action that the soloists incorporate into their characters," she said. "I've been trained to express myself, to carry myself properly and even walk in a hoop skirt, which I do as Anna."

Two seasons ago, she showed Washington her depth of range and drama in a joint recital with Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, one of the two male artists she most admires. The concert at the Kennedy Center, under the auspices of the Washington Performing Arts Society, was part of a North American tour that also took them to Carnegie Hall. Their mutual regard beams through laserlike on stage, as well as in their recent recording, "Hvorostovsky in Moscow," accompanied by the Philharmonia of Russia.

The other male singer who captured her heart while she was a teenager is Placido Domingo. As a young singer at the Met, she could not believe her good fortune when he pulled her aside to compliment her voice. In 2005, he selected her to sing the role of Roxane to his "Cyrano de Bergerac" an opera by Franco Alfano that had never before been done in this country.

"I prepared for that role by going to the Met library and studying hard," she said. "It was a thrill singing with Placido, and I am so grateful that he has been a huge support to me ever since."