'Le Cid's' Opulent Opening: Ole!

It might not quite rival New York's Metropolitan Opera yet, but opening night of the Washington Opera is becoming one of the most glittering social occasions of the fall.

Saturday night drew an impressive crowd to the Kennedy Center, where artistic director and "Le Cid" star Placido Domingo was congratulated by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor, Mayor Anthony Williams and ambassadors from France, Italy, Britain, Israel, Greece, Japan and Jordan. Not to mention hundreds of patrons, although none with pockets quite as deep as AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey, who underwrote the lavish production about the legendary 11th-century Spanish hero. "I thought it was absolutely glorious," said Robert Craft, president of the opera's board of trustees, sporting white tie and tails to mark the new season.

The post-performance dinner was equally elaborate: Co-chairs Wilma Bernstein and Samia Farouki re-created a medieval Spanish castle with huge wrought-iron candleholders, heavy wooden chairs, rich red-and-gold brocade draperies, and blood-red roses on red tablecloths. "Wonderful!" exclaimed Beatrice Oyarzabal, wife of the Spanish ambassador. "I feel as if I'm still in Seville."

A fanfare and cascading rose petals greeted the singers, including a standing ovation for Domingo, who missed dress rehearsal with a vicious cold and remained silent for 72 hours before the performance. "I was looking forward to it so," said the Spanish tenor. "I feel almost recovered."

So the heroes prevailed: Washington got Placido, and El Cid got the girl. "Sometimes, opera can have a happy ending," said Kimsey. "When a Frenchman writes about a Spanish warrior, that's how it turns out."

Doing Good and Buying Well

"Let's go buy those dirt bikes!" said Sen. Don Nickles, below left. The Oklahoma Republican was one of the bargain hunters at the best shopping opportunity of the weekend: Saturday's Lombardi Center gala at the Washington Hilton. More than 1,200 supporters of Georgetown University's cancer center attended the 14th annual extravaganza, which boasted live and silent auctions, with a new BMW, trips, jewelry, wines and other upscale goodies on the block. Celebrity shoppers included Princess Iman Bint Al Hussein and her grandmother Libby Halaby, above. The 15-year-old princess attends Washington's Maret School and is the daughter of Jordan's Queen Noor; her father, King Hussein, died of lymphoma earlier this year. Cancer survivor and major league baseball player Eric Davis, in photo at left with Nickles and Ellen McDaniel, said, "It's not a black disease, a white disease, an athletic disease--it's a deadly disease."

For Costume Connoisseurs

Chills, thrills and cognac kicked off Friday's "Night of the Spirit" at the French Embassy. The Halloween party had a Gallic bent: A Napoleon, two French chefs and three musketeers were among the revelers. James Packard and Erwin Gomez, above right, wore spectacular, custom-made Mardi Gras ensembles, but the winners of the trip to France had everyone ooh-la-la-ing: Karen Collins and boyfriend Peter Seroskie, right, came as Picasso and one of his canvases. The live picture was so convincing it was almost spooky.

CAPTION: Above, from left: Placido Domingo, Samia Farouki and Ambassador Marwan Muasher of Jordan at the opera gala. Below, from left: Opera board President Robert Craft, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, Martin.