From left, David M. Rubenstein, Marcelle Leahy, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Nina Totenberg, H. David Reines and Deborah Rutter. (Yassine El Mansouri)

The two biggest ovations at Sunday’s Washington National Opera gala had nothing to do with opera and everything to do with beloved divas: The audience gave Ruth Bader Ginsburg raucous, sustained applause when it learned the Supreme Court justice was in the house, and Broadway icon Patti LuPone stole the show with a comic riff on “A Boy Like That” from “West Side Story.”

“Obviously, I’m not from the opera,” LuPone told the crowd — which was perfectly fine, given that the program was yet another centennial tribute to Leonard Bernstein.

In fact, the entire night was pretty informal: “I’m supposed to tell you to turn off your cellphones, not take any pictures and not make any recordings,” Francesca Zambello, the Washington National Opera’s artistic director, said before the show. “Okay, so I’ve told you and you can do whatever. Make sure you use hashtag . . .” (Not sure what her punchline was; it was drowned out by laughter.)

The night raised $1 million for the company’s educational programs, and everyone left with custom M&Ms, courtesy of Jacqueline Mars — one perk of having the candy heiress on the board.


Broadway legend Patti LuPone, center, with the mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and the tenor Alek Shrader backstage at the 2018 WNO Gala. (Yassine El Mansouri)

Jamie Bernstein prepares her remarks about her father, Leonard Bernstein, backstage at the gala. (Yassine El Mansouri)

Judy Cox and Ambassador Dirk Wouters of Belgium. (Yassine El Mansouri)

From left, performers Kerriann Otano, Christopher Kenney, Alexander McKissick and Allegra De Vita before the opening number at the gala. (Yassine El Mansouri)

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, Eric Larsen, Susanne Larsen and WNO artistic director Francesca Zambello. (Yassine El Mansouri)

WNO trustee Kent Knutson and Jane Cafritz of the Cafritz Foundation. (Yassine El Mansouri)