Water, Water Everywhere . . .

The rain came down in curtains just before the Wolf Trap benefit gala Monday night.This made dinner for 1,300 guests before the show rather less elegant than it might have been, though everyone made the best of it, having paid handsomely for the privilege of celebrating the center's 10th anniversary.

"I've seen worse," said lawyer Clark MacGregor, who sat with his wife on one side and a dripping branch on the other. As he spoke, indeed every time he breathed, little vapors of white frost appeared in the air. Under the pink dining tents, coffee and dinner were consumed, shoe heels sank into the sopping lawn and a cool breeze kept snuffing out the candles.

But Nancy Reagan arrived soon enough and was shown up to her seat, the dinner guest lefts the tents and headed for higher ground and the show began.

"Any time they use Liz Taylor as bait I'll be there," said emcee Bob Hope. "I just can't imagine Liz on a farm," he continued. "She thinks a pig is a poodle with a weight problem."

The water didn't faze Mrs. Jouett Shouse, who appeared on stage in a pink Balmain, or the first lady, who appeared on stage at halftime with Shouse. Mrs. Reagan brought greeting from her husband and a $25,000 check for Wolf Trap.

"Thank you," said Shouse, and then happily explained how the check was really $50,000, when you considered matching grants.

"Mrs. Shouse is going to be 85," said Hope. "I'll tell you, it's marvelous to be around someone who calls you 'son.'"

The show went on and included a surprise performance by Hope's wife, Delores, who walked out on stage in a silvery ball gown and proceeded to warble "On a Clear Day." Outside, beyond the sheltering beams of the Filene Center, the heaven wept. The Opera Isn't Over . . .

Austrian culture was the oint of the symposium and party sponsored by the Austrian Embassy and the National Press Club Tuesday night, in a ballroom festooned with posters of Osterreich and filled with culture vultures from many lands. Karl Schober, the Austrian ambassador, was on the symposium panel, as was Aram Bakshian Jr., special assistant to the president for the humanities and a fan of the Vienna Opera.

But, as in any room where two or more arts aficionados are gathered, talk soon turned to The Stockman Ax.

"Here is Martin Feinstein, the executive director of performing arts for the Kennedy Center, to talk about government resources and the arts. And don't believe what he says about the administration," said Bakshian.

"Well, I hope the administration is a little bit more up to date than you because I'm director of the Washington Opera, not executive director at the Kennedy Center," sniffed Feinstein.

"Have your pencils ready to send a message," Feinstein told the audience, "to the president, the trio [Edwin Meese, Michael Deaver and James Baker] and David Stockman."

"It was an orchestra, but we cut it down to a trio," Bakshian said.

"I like to think of it as a dissident quartet," said Feinstein.

Feinstein then let loose a volley of statistics showing the extraordinary extent of the Austrian government's support for the arts, and then compared that with the Reagan budget cuts for the arts.

"Thank you very much," said Bakshian, wiggling his eyebrows once it was all over, "for that unpaid political announcement." No Spouses Need Apply

OAS Ambassador Alejandro Orfila gave a private dinner at his home last week in honor of Georgetown University president Rev. Timothy Healy. It was a stag dinner (no spouses allowed in the door, except Helga Orfila, who stayed upstairs all night), and very private.

There were 30 guests in al, including ambassador-designate to West Germany Arthur Burns, Judge David Bazelon, NEA chief Livingston Biddle, National Theater Board chairman Maurice Tobin, Korean ambassador Yong Shik Kim and Riggs Bank president Daniel Callahan.

Smoked salmon, an unlucky steer from Orfila's herd and vegetables were served, and Orfila offered $26 bottles of wine from his cellar. Inflation being what it is in Argentina, the ambassador told his guests, he couldn't afford to buy his own wine if he were there now.

Then the toasts flew. Healy offered one to Orfila, full of praise for Latin America. Orfila gave one back, without standing, saying that Healy is a man of understanding and not formalities, "a truly ecumenical man."

But the evening's most fiery moment came with the presentation of the baked Alaska, which flamed the whole time it was being served. "We referred to it as Mount St. Helen's." said Maurice Tobin. A Hoover in Every Corner

These are boom times for conservative think tanks, and the annual party at the Sheraton Carlton for the Hoover Institution's Public Affairs Fellows was proof. The Hoover Institution's full name, of course, is the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. They don't use that so often, maybe because the inevitable rejoinder is, "Which one are you in charge of?"

But never mind, the institution has loftier things to worry about these days, what with all the bright faces it's sent along into the Reagan administration, the brightest of all being, of course, national security adviser Richard Allen, presidential assistant Martin Anderson, and Adm. James Stockdale. Allen showed up late, and left quickly. Lyn Nofziger came early and left quickly. But others were more content to revel in the glory days.

"We're all Mel Laird proteges," beamed Edwin Fuelner, the Heritage Foundation's main man, as he pointed at David Abshire, of Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, and William Baroody Jr., of the American Enterprise Institute. "Think of it," Fuelner said, "three of the bit conservative think tanks!"

Just then Phil Habib, the Reagan administration's peacemaker in the Middle East, walked in. He headed straight for the bar, and ordered a white wine. When was he resuming his mission? someone inquired. "None of your business," Babib snapped, rather undiplomatically. Mr. Harlow Goes to Washington

Bryce Harlow has a lot of friends. That's what happens when you come to Washington from Oklahoma as a young man and spend the next four decades working for the likes of Rep. Will Rogers Jr., President Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. George Marshall, the late representative Carl Vinson, President Richard Nixon (twice, once before Watergate and again, reluctantly, for a short time during Watergate, "to help put the president back together"), and as a corporate lobbyist. Harlow's retired now, and last week some of his many friends gave Harlow a party, saluting his integrity, his humor and leadership in making government relations a respectable career.

Sen. Robert Dole, Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander and Leonard Garment were on hand, as were scores of corporate representatives. It was a night for telling Bryce Harlow stories.

"I answered his phone for 1 1/2 years," said alexander, recalling the early days of the Nixon White House. "By watching him I knew exactly what to do and what not to do. If people had listened to him, maybe things would have worked out a little better," said the governor. "He gave me good advice. He told me to go home."

And the rest is history.