A Night at The Opera Ball

It was a scene to rival any great opera production. Friday night's 41st Washington Opera Ball began with ballet dancers, torches, opera arias and champagne -- and that was before guests walked through the entrance.

After dinner at 34 embassies, more than 800 diplomats, politicians, business people and opera lovers descended on the Kalorama residence of French Ambassador Francois Bujon de l'Estang for dessert and dancing. Fashion designer Christian Lacroix transformed the Tudor mansion into a "French millennium fantasy" that had even the most jaded social types gaping. Gold confetti drifted over mannequins in baroque costume. Long-stemmed red roses floated in the pool. A massive tent was draped with fabric, tubing and flowers. There were even two sorbet tables carved entirely out of ice. The effect: dazzling, delicious and very soigne.

"If you made a Hollywood set for what most Americans think Washington is all about at night, this would be it," said Washingtonian publisher Phil Merrill.

Ball chairman Jane Sloat and Anne Bujon de l'Estang led the contingent of women wearing Lacroix gowns, while others settled for their most fabulous jewels. Old and new money mingled in mutual appreciation. Even sports guys like new Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis were impressed.

"You wouldn't think a country that worships Jerry Lewis could throw a party like this," said Leonsis.

Party Hearty

Larry King proudly showed off wife Shawn and his 12-week-old son, Chance, at a beach party Friday night for 300 pals at the Four Seasons Hotel. The dress: Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts. The food: Nathan's hot dogs. The cause: King's cardiac foundation.

Grill Power

Al and Tipper Gore threw a pre-race barbecue at their residence Friday afternoon to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Washington's Race for the Cure. More than 100 breast cancer survivors were honored by race founder Nancy Brinker, who received hugs from the vice president and his wife.

CAPTION: Talking sports? Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

Clockwise from top left: Fashion designer Christian Lacroix, left, and ball chairman Jane Sloat, right; Zhun Peytregnet, wife of the French chancellor, taking a breather next to a Lacroix gown; and Betty Scripps Harvey, a ball underwriter, wearing some of the evening's most dazzling diamonds.