It was not business as usual last night at the Kennedy Center when the London Savoyards joined the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Burrows, in a finely performed program of music by Gilbert and Sullivan. Sparkling woodwinds, smooth ensemble and crisp phrasing set the tone in the overture to "Iolanthe": The musicians let their hair down in this concert, but did so with considerable style.

Soprano Patricia Cope and tenor Geoffrey Shovelton were particularly impressive throughout, with exquisite phrasing and power to spare. Their kisses in the duet "Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted" from "The Mikado" were a tonal rainbow, ranging from percussive staccato attacks to one rather legato smooch.

Baritone Peter Pratt's humorous patter set the stage for most of the songs. He bordered on the speed of sound as he deftly traversed a veritable mine field of tongue twisters while enumerating the qualities of "the very model of a modern major-general." One of many high points came when Enid Hartle joined him for snappy comic repartee from "The Mikado." The Savoyards consistently captured Gilbert and Sullivan's enduring appeal: They skewered human foibles, but did so with a rapier tempered with tenderness. All four singers joined to close the concert, blending perfectly in "Once more, Gondolieri," from "The Gondoliers."