"I called my box office at 7:30 this evening," said Max Woodward, manager of the Eisenhower Theater. "They said to me, 'Did you hear what happened to Martin?'" I said, 'No, what?' They said 'He resigned.' Well, I was almost in tears.

Woodward had just sauntered into the Atrium of the Kennedy Center for a reception following the concert of Greek folk singer Nana Mouskouri. He stopped short when the subject of Martin Feinstein, the just-removed executive director of the Kennedy Center, was brought up at the party.

"The man has done so much for ballet and opera in Washington," said Woodward. "Before he came, you couldn't drag people to the ballet and the opera. Now you have to turn them away."

When Woodward found out late yesterday evening about Feinstein, he called Opera House Manager Richard Kidwell at home. "Kidwell was at the 5:30 staff meeting when they announced it," said Woodward. "He said most of the people were upset. I'm anxious to go to work tomorrow and see what will happen. This news is more surprising than finding out I had been fired."

Among the party guests, including Washington Performing Arts Society members, who sponsored the concert, American and Greek fans of the singer, and at least one congresswoman -- Rep. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the subject was not hotly debated. Instead, the guests gathered around to chat with Mouskouri, who arrived late and sat down at a table after making a quick pass at the buffet.

At one point Mouskouri quietly sang a chorus of "Happy Birthday" to Patrick Hayes, managing director of the Washington Performing Arts Society. Hayes looked mildly astonished, since his birthday is in January. "That's all right, we're celebrating it year-round," commented Philip Fleming, who with his wife Sophie, toasted the party.

Hayes was more concerned with the Kennedy Center developments. "This will alleviate [Feinstein] of those budget and administrative details," he said. "And in my opinion, the Washington Opera is beautifully rooted. He'll build it up."

Doug Wheeler, manager of the Performing Arts Society, also had nothing but praise for Feinstein: "Look what he's done," said Wheeler, enumerating: "The Vienna Opera, La Scala. Great ideas take money."