This evening we had the privilege of dining alongside a top opera director. The purpose of this post is not to drop his name (which I won’t). Yes, there was some talk about the creative process, but the most striking aspect of the evening was his selection of anecdotes, recounted in resigned frustration, about a major opera house in a European capital city (which had better also remain nameless). These included a one-armed cellist, several eccentrics on the opera house payroll who did nothing but sit in the stalls all day and the orchestra refusing to finish rehearsing the fifteen minutes at the end of an opera because, according to their rules, they were entitled to fifteen minutes to put away their instruments. (This reminded me of how quite frequently at La Monnaie most of the members of the orchestra have left before the applause has finished.) It cannot be for a visiting opera director to try to reform such practices and so our fellow guest had to resign himself to working within those restraints but the experience had clearly been a stressful and a puzzling one. To finish on a positive note, the one-armed cellist story reminded me of this classic sketch.