From The Washington Post, Monday, Feb. 7, 1977.

It's rare thing for a President to spend Sunday afternoon at the opera, but yesterday that's what President Carter did, taking most everyone by surprise, even Kennedy Center Officials and the White House press corps.

Reporters who regularly cover the President's comings and goings were left behind, uninformed, as Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and daughter, Amy made the five-minute drive from the White House to the Centre for the matinee performance of "Madame Butterfly" by the Washington Opera Society.

Carter received a standing ovation from the pleased crowd in the Opera House when he entered the Presidential Box with his family. During the first intermission he sat with his glasses on, reading from the libretto.

White House aides had to scramble to keep up with the First Family. Presidential physician William Lukash, who normally accompanies the President wherever he goes, had five minutes' notice that the Carters were departing. At least one secret Service man said he, too, had had to hustle to make the trip.

While Carter was backstage congratulating the company after the performance, White House reporters had time to catch up and were waiting for him at the exit. How had he liked the production, one journalist asked.

"I think it was about the finest I've ever seen," replied the President.

"You surprised us by coming," said another reporter.

"Oh, really?" said Carter with a big grin.

(The following is an unedited transcript of a conversation between two high-ranking officials of the Kennedy Center, recorded shortly before the start of a performance of "The Sleeping Beauty" but the Royal Ballet at the Center's Opera House, Nov. 12, 1978.)

"It's him."

"You're kidding. You mean he's doing it again? Showing up at the last minute without notice?"

"You got it. And let me tell you we're in some kind of hot water. He's on his way now, with the whole bunch."

"Well, so what's the big deal? This is already the 12th time. First there was 'Madame Butterfly.' Then it was 'Mark Twain Tonight.' And when he couldn't make it over here, he was asking us to come over there! Remember the deal when he had the Mike Nichols' 'Annie' specially previewed for the governors' dinner in the East Room? So why get all hot and bothered now?"

"I'll tell you what the trouble is. To begin with, there's not a seat in the house - anywhere. Since carter started this trend, the whole government has gone culture wacky, and the foreign legations as well. And you never know when the devil they're coming. Last week when we held out all the boxes and half the orchestra and nobody showed. It was disaster. Tonight, we've had calls from three Supreme Court Justices, four Cabinet members, 11 congressional committee chairmen, two rear admirals and 16 ambassadors, all within the last 15 minutes."

"I know, it's been happening all over town, not just here. They nearly went crazy at WPA last week when Amy one of their avant-garde happenings - they had to chuck half the script and recostume the whole show. Arena Stage, the Library of Congress chamber music concerts - no place is safe any more."

"First things first - the where the shoot are we going to put Jimmy?"

"Wait a minute, I think I've got an idea. We'll move the chairman of the opening night benefit, you know, that Mrs. So-and-So and her party, out of the center box and move them to Roger Stevens' orchestra seats. We'll move Roger to Martin Feinstein's pair, and we'll move Martin to those house seats we sold to the ballerina's uncle, and we'll give the uncle my spot, and I'll take my wife and sit in the pit. How's that?"

"Oh, that's fine, fine and dandy. But what do we do about Billy, and Chip and Caron, and Jeff and Annettee? What's more, I just had a call before you got in here - the President's doctor only had two minutes notice but he's on the way, along with the White House chef, the Chief of Protocol, nine Secret Service men and the head of NASA."

"Where did you say you keep that bottle of Valium?"

(Excerpts from the following morning's review of the Royal Ballet performance of "The Sleeping Beauty.")

Last night's performance started 45 minutes late due to the commotion stirred by the arrival of dignitaries. President Carter received a standing ovation of several minutes when he entered the Presidential box with his family, and the crowd also rose and cheered at the appearance of several Cabinet heads. Intermissions were extended to well over an hour so the President, who had left his glasses at the White House, could finish reading the act synopses. Carter was also overheard quizzing members of his staff on the distinction between the Lilac Fairy's variation and those of the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain and the Fairy of the Golden Vine.

How had he liked the production? one journalist asked afterwards.

"I think it was about the finest I've ever seen," replied the President.

"Mr. President, that's what you said last week at the ballet, and the week before that after the symphony concert, and the week before that at the performance of 'Henry V.' But which did you like best?

"Well, now, I don't think it would be fair to the American people, or the fine artists we've seen performing here, or to my gracious hosts at the Kennedy Center, to divulge that information at this time. But during my next White House 'call-in' program, it would be wonderful if all the folks who were present called me and gave me their views on these performances.

"After all," the President said, "its what the people think that's important, isn't it?"