"Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes," sang the men of the chorus, who had just paraded up the side aisles to the stage, garbed in the coronets and ermine-trimmed purple robes of peers of the realm. Nobody in the audience bowed, but the Trinity Theatre in Georgetown was filled last night, for the first of the Washington Savoyards' five performances of "Iolanthe." And, judging by the applause, they had a very good time.

It's not hard with "Iolanthe"; the plot (about fairies and members of Parliament) is a shade sillier than most in the canon of Savoy Operas, but the music includes some of the best that Sir Arthur Sullivan ever wrote to words by W.S. Gilbert. Besides some deft parody of Wagner's "Ring," its highlights include the great "nightmare" patter song and the one about "giving agreeable girls away," the wonderful bass solo about how we are all born either little liberals or little conservatives, the lilting "Faint heart never won fair lady" trio, and some superb choral music.

The performance had some rough edges, but it allowed all of this music to be enjoyed. There is no comparison between this "Iolanthe" and the "Trial by Jury" currently available in the Terrace Theater, but such comparisons would not really be fair. The Washington Savoyards are an amateur organization, except for members of the orchestra, who earn about enough to pay for gas, and in this context the production was remarkable. The chorus is very good and the orchestra, conducted by Jerry Wayne Harkey, sounds capable and very well rehearsed. None of the soloists is earth-shaking, but all are enjoyable and some are very good--particularly Pat Anthony, in the small, vivid role of Private Willis, and Rosalie Santilhano, who brings a commanding stage presence to the role of the Queen of the Fairies