Last night I went to the Royal Opera House to find out about Tim Albery's new production of Der fliegende Holländer, which opens later this month. The ROH run these 'Insight Evenings' for most productions. There's no fixed format. Live music, talk, background, lectures, recordings - anything or anyone can appear, sometimes even the stars of the show. And that's exactly what we got here. Not just the lovely Anja Kampe (Senta) but the Welsh Dutchman himself, Bryn Terfel. Atoning for past absences maybe? No-one dared to probe that particular issue.
Instead, Bryn answered some more general questions.
He talked about how he prepares for a role, learning by repetition, singing wherever he can, at home or in the car "taking the kids to choir practice". What he sung when he was starting out, like Mozart, was easy to learn. But this is different - once a singer moves on to Wagner, there's no time for a social life. He'll just go straight to the music room when he gets home and open a bottle of red wine.
His first (and to date only) Dutchman was the WNO's 2006 production. But when he looked at the music again three months ago he could remember nothing. It was like looking at a new score. (Too much red wine perhaps? asked Anja Kampe. We all giggled.)
Studying the discography helps as well. He prefers what he called 'old fashioned' singing, because of the way with words. Diction is very important for Bryn. "The three boys think I'm absolutely crazy" he said (it was so touching how many times he sneaked his kids into the conversation.)
George London's widow gave Bryn some of the great man's marked-up scores, and Bryn was amazed to find he can "cut and paste" London's comments - he had "exactly the same problems" in the same places.
It was clear his feelings about David Pountney's WNO Dutchman were, er, 'mixed'. He prefers traditional productions, so he had to swallow his disappointment when he found out this one was set in outer space. He didn't like the raked stage either. That's partly for health reasons - two of his three back operations followed working on sloping stages.
He's already counted the steps behind the rake in Tim Albery's new set - fifteen, he announced disapprovingly. But he'll get on with it. That's not the only physical trial - he'll also have to tug a rope so heavy it floored a stagehand. (We looked at some design slides later - all wellies and scaffolding - very grim). But he sounded optimistic overall and claimed he's more prepared now than he was first time round. We shall see!