We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

The Washington National Opera opened its new season last night with crowd-pleaser Tosca and a $1,000-a-plate black-tie fundraising dinner at the Kennedy Center.  Present at both was onetime House speaker and current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Interviewed during intermission, Gingrich gave a rave review, calling it “very powerful…a tremendous opening for the Opera.”  Despite having once called for the abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gingrich is a longtime booster of the now-taxpayer-supported WNO, since its merger with the Kennedy Center.  Asked how long the Gingriches have attended, his wife Callista says they have been WNO season ticketholders and donors for “ten, maybe eleven years.”

Gingrich is not the only Republican politician to have supported the financially troubled opera company.  Last year, Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran snuck a $200,000 earmark to support the WNO into the 2010 omnibus bill, arousing the ire of conservative anti-tax activists.

For Gingrich, the performance must have been a welcome respite from the incessant stream of emotionally wrenching 9/11 anniversary coverage, as well as the GOP primary debates and defection of his entire campaign staff in June.  While this reviewer can’t personally relate to the latter two, it’s certainly nice to enjoy a night out at the opera, whatever the economic or political climate. See the review of Tosca in the upcoming print edition of the City Paper.

Correction: WNO reports the Gingriches attended the opera but skipped the dinner afterward.