What a wingding!

There were: oysters made of chocolate bearing tiny pearls, fresh raspberries, fresh blackberries, fresh strawberries, an undrying supply of Krug champagne and Remy-Martin cognac, lots of really fancy gowns, tapping toes, a big tent, open bars, tuxedoed waiters and the strains of "New York, New York," and that's not to mention the people.

Last night's grand fundraiser at the French Embassy for the Washington Opera was billed as "one of Washington's most prestigious social events" and was given the title of "Bal des Etoiles."

The stars decorating the party were the people.

Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger took his wife's hand and headed off toward the back of the tent. A telltale piece of chocolate was on his lip.

They had eaten their pre-ball dinner, part of the night's package for guests, at the Norwegian Embassy.

"It was very fine," Weinberger said.

Why do you suppose they were sent to that embassy?

"We go where we're invited."

Effi Barry had eaten at the Mauritanian Embassy. She came without her husband. "I've been an opera fan for a long time," she said.

And apparently, many Washingtonians are passionate opera lovers. This year's ball tickets, at $250 a shot, were sold out in April. At least 600 people were said to have accepted their invitations, and a spokeswoman said the Washington Opera women's committee had to turn down people who wanted to attend the event.

The crowd was a mix of politicos and businesspeople, including the top officials of Exxon, American Express, Woodward and Lothrop, Garfinckel's, Mobil, the Federal Communications Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts and ambassadors from at least 15 countries.

"It's a wonderful party," said Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler. "I've always been an opera fan, and I think as much as I love politics, the quality of life is enriched by the apolitical things we fit in our calendars--such as the Washington Opera."

Heckler said shehas been "enjoying" her job, to which she recently was appointed. "As far as health in this country is concerned," she said. "I don't think there's any greater mandate."

Behind her, seated at one of the many tables in the tent, was Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) who had greeted Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) in the receiving line with a gracious hug.

What brought Laxalt out?

"My wife," he said with a straight face. "No, the Hatfields are very good friends of ours."

He was shouting above the cha-cha music, to which Helga Orfila, wife of Secretary of the OAS Alejandro Orfila, was dancing with interior designer Robert Waldron.

As the clock struck midnight, the party was far from coming to an end, even thought the receiving line was disbanding to head for the dance floor.

Martin Feinstein, general director of the Washington Opera, stopped on the stairs from the embassy to the tent to describe the bash, which is expected to net the opera company $125,000.

"Epatant," he said. "Do you know how to spell that? It's e-p-a-t-t-"

"No," interrupted his wife. "There's only one t."

"E-p-a-t-a-n-t," Feinstein said. "It means stupendous."