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Exorcising ghosts

So I didn't imagine it: our Queen of Spades was as good as it felt like it was going to be. The cast were fabulous and everybody appears to agree with the spider comparisons for Rosalind Plowright's remarkable physical incarnation of the Countess.

There is always pressure on a first night, that's obvious. But the pressure doesn't apply in one place, or in equal force, like a blanket across us all, it manifests itself in several places. For the singers - some of them still young and subject to eager attention - they take on these mighty, signature roles with trepidatious ballsiness. The director, the conductor, the designer; they too feel the weight of expectation to create a coherent piece of musical theatre that satisfies the myriad personal expectations of the audience. It takes enormous courage from performers to step out into the glare of critical attention in such revered roles. For those in the earlier stages of a career, it is nights like last night that will make them.

For us as a management, the evening was something of an exorcism, with memories of precisely ten years ago and the first night of our last production of this opera. The tenor's on-stage vocal disintegration was but one crumbling pillar of an evening we were now eager to put right. It is often forgotten that also on that first night in 2006, technical problems sent the conductor out of the pit - having stopped the performance - and up to the box to ask brusquely where his "f**ing lights" were because an electrical fault had plunged the musicians into darkness.

No such issues cursed us last night and so perhaps we can now mark The Queen of Spades as "mastered" on the archive. We are a suspicious lot in the opera business.


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