THE WASHINGTON Opera has a hit on its hands with the rollicking production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Ruddigore" that opened last Monday at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater.

It is a remarkable collaboration of the cherished Savoy Opera traditions, embodied by Richard D'Oyly Carte, and contemporary theater, with all the possibilities that technology has made available. Director Peter Mark Schifter has attended carefully to the delightful details that so entertained Victorian audiences.

The melodramatic contrasts that Gilbert built into his "Entirely Original Supernatural Opera" are emphatic in the sets that Zack Brown has created: a village square of two-dimensional naivete' with cardboard roses that grow on command and a boat that is walked onto the stage by its crew; a fanciful graveyard overseen by an enormous owl; and, of course, the dread gallery of ancestors, dark and tall and hung with dire-looking tatters.

Amid all this cavorts a cast of truly inspired comics who also happen to sing wonderfully. Sheryl Woods is a marvelously fickle Rose Maybud, ruled by her bible, a pink etiquette book. As the diffident "Bad Baronet" alias Robin Oakapple, Thomas Goerz is unflaggingly moral. William Partcher and Judith Christin are outrageous as the highly unstable Sir Despard and Mad Margaret. Elaine Bonazzi's Dame Hannah is a masterpiece of comic timing and innuendo, and Paul Austin Kelly's Richard Dauntless is expertly defined. The chorus of professional, but under-utilized bridesmaids, strew their endless rose petals with ever-hopeful enthusiasm, and the whole ensemble moves with a splendid rhythmic empathy.

The music bounces along under Randolph Mauldin's direction with a spriteliness that, in the patter song "It Really Doesn't Matter" almost defies the human tongue. That every word emerges unscathed is a source of wonder.

WASHINGTON OPERA -- "Ruddigore." At the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, Saturday, Thursday, January 3, 8, 10, 12, 16, 19, 23, 25 and 30.