Christine Meadows sure knows how to fake an orgasm.

It's a Wednesday-night rehearsal for the second act of Portland Opera's season-opening production: Charles Gounod's hotly popular Faust. Soprano Maureen O'Flynn (as Marguerite, the virginal teenage heroine) and mezzo-soprano Meadows (as Marthe, young Marguerite's nanny of sorts) are being propositioned: Meadows by Mephistopheles (bass Mark S. Doss), wielding a dangerously erect cane; O'Flynn by the hunky young Faust (tenor Bülent Bezdüz).

Marthe writhes on the floor; Marguerite and Faust circle each other like cats. Faust pounces, and the "chaste and pure" Marguerite allows a tiny kiss (no tongue). They embrace—the music swells. Then it's break time.

"I'm hot," O'Flynn says, fanning herself as she walks off the rehearsal stage for some water.

Such operatic sex antics are par for the course for O'Flynn, a jet-setting soprano specializing in suffering heroines like Marguerite. In the last year alone, she's performed in opera houses from Omaha, Neb., to Spain, Germany and New York's Metropolitan Opera, where her last-moment substitution for ailing star Natalie Dessay (in a new production of another Gounod opera, Roméo et Juliette) set audiences on fire.

O'Flynn is especially happy to be back in Portland—"The only other place I'd want to live," says the Western Massachusetts resident—and to be working again on Faust. It's her third time out with the role—the second resulted in a marriage between the heroine and Satan (O'Flynn married bass Claude Corbeil, who played Mephistopheles in that production)—but O'Flynn feels there's much still to discover about Marguerite, whom she described as "a repressed, oppressed 17-year-old girl, with hormones that are screaming."

An infamous Royal Opera House Faust production (by bad-boy director David McVicar) took that idea further and featured G-string-clad gyrating gay boys and bearish-baritone Bryn Terfel in female drag, culminating in a (literally) balls-out orgy.

No such luck here.

According to Flynn, Portland Opera's version will be "dark and extremely psychological." But there are those lingering orgasmic moments, and the increasingly hot encounters between Marguerite and Faust.

Taking a moment to remember onstage amours of productions past, O'Flynn says that making out with other opera singers onstage is just part of the job, and "almost without exception, it's a pleasure." Have any horny tenors tried to slip her the tongue? "Oh, yeah!" she says. She also said she's really, um, getting off on this particular production.

"I mean," she says, casting a glance back at the chiseled Faust of Bezdüz, "look at him!"

Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 241-1802. 7:30 pm Saturday and Tuesday, Nov. 4 & 7. $39-$140.