NEW WINDSORRoger Hendricks Simon, founder and owner of Simon Studios in New York and Poughkeepsie, will bring his theater expertise to Orange County's Opera Company of the Highlands. The new professional opera company has plans to present three operas, including Die Fledermaus this fall, The Daughter of the Regiment in the spring and La Bohème in the fall of 2006. The company's premiere will be Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, with Simon as stage director and Claudia Cummings as musical director of the operetta, slated for nine performances from Oct. 21 through Nov. 6. "I really want people to understand that this is a professional undertaking," said Simon, who is a founding member of Yale Repertory Company. "So the goal for me is to be able to define that this is clearly a professional company, not just for the audience and the press, but for the people who are working on the show. It takes time and discipline for young artists to learn what that is." James Earl Jones, John Lithgow and Samuel L. Jackson have coached with Simon. The New York Shakespeare Festival, London's Royal Court Theatre and Dublin's Abbey Theatre stages have experienced his presence as actor and director. He has done classical theater, introduced many new plays and unknown writers and has directed opera and musical theater. Simon first met actor Jack Aranson and soprano Claudia Cummings during a stint at Lehman College Center for Performing Arts in Manhattan, but lost the connection until two years ago, when Simon saw an article in the Poughkeepsie paper about Aranson's one-man show at Mount Saint Mary College and rekindled the friendship. Cummings, the founder and artistic director of the Opera Company of the Highlands, later called on him to be stage manager. Die Fledermaus performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. The venue is the Festival Theatre on Route 94 in Blooming Grove on Oct. 21 to 23; St. George's Episcopal Church on Grand Street in Newburgh on Oct. 28 to 30; St. Mary's Church in Cold Spring on Nov. 4; and Cunneen-Hackett Center in Poughkeepsie on Nov. 5 and 6. Tickets are $20. For information, call 562-5381 or visit www.OperaCompanyoftheHighlands.org.