‘The end of all operas are tragic, normally, so I’m terrible at crying’

In conversation: Tara Erraught and Fergus Sheil

What was the last gift you bought?

Tara: I bought socks with jingly things on the bottom for a baby. You know the way they spend so much time shoving their legs in the air? They've little giraffes on the toes and when you wiggle them, they make a noise.
Fergus: It was my wife's birthday recently. We've two kids so I have to buy three presents. I'm hopeless at these things. I just went into Brown Thomas and went up to the Armani counter and asked the girl there to give me perfume and make-up and things like that. Everyone was happy.

When did you last cry?

Fergus: I cry all the time watching movies or television or if I'm reading a book or watching an opera, wiping tears away in the dark. The end of all operas are tragic, normally, so I'm terrible at crying.
Tara: I don't remember the last time, which is strange. I used to cry loads and loads, and then just stopped. The only movie I definitely cannot watch without it killing me is Beaches.
Fergus: Beaches?
Tara: It's amazing. Bette Midler.

What is your favourite item of clothing?

Tara: I have a travel outfit that I'm proud of. Most of it is from Fabletics, this American online shop. They have these amazing trousers-slash-leggings that keep you cool if you're too warm and warm if you're too cold. Super comfortable. Now everything matches, down to the runners. I've even got the hairband. It makes long-haul flights so much easier.
Fergus: I have a not very glamorous, not very new pair of shoes that I go walking in. They're kind of grubby, but they make me feel amazing when I walk. I walk a lot because of a back issue I have. As soon as I go for a walk in these shoes, everything is fine. They're magic shoes.

Favourite technology besides your phone or computer?

Tara: My noise-cancelling headphones.
Fergus: Me too.
Tara: Or a Nespresso machine.
Fergus: Is that technology?
Tara: I always have one sleeve of capsules with me when I'm travelling, just in case.


Is there any artist you feel connected to right now?

Fergus: I've been watching a lot of Lars von Trier films lately. I started with Melancholia, and I've gone on to watch all of his other films. Really dark stuff, but very compelling. That's a little phase I'm in at the moment.
Tara: I go through huge Adele phases. I feel at the minute because she's not making anything new, there's something missing.

Can you guess the other person’s go-to drink?

Tara: I know you like a gin and tonic.
Fergus: That's right. My reputation precedes me. I'm going to guess that you'd have an Aperol spritz.
Tara: Love an Aperol spritz.
Fergus: Phew!
Tara: They're delicious. People say it's a summer drink, it's not. It's all year round.

What do you think is your most dominant personality trait?

Fergus: You're a great talker.
Tara: If I'm quiet, you should be very worried.
Fergus: I think I'm calm. Sometimes in opera there could be hundreds of people involved and things could be going not in the direction you want, crises happen, but I stay very calm.
Tara: You do actually.
Fergus: Sometimes I think I should kick ass a bit more, but it's not my style.
Tara: In an industry that's full of drama, it's a rarity.

What book do you keep returning to?

Fergus: I really like F Scott Fitzgerald, ever since I read The Great Gatsby. I've started reading some of his short stories again, having read them ages ago. It takes you into a different world, you can go in there and escape. His characters are brilliant and it's very thoughtful.
Tara: I could easily read Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling again. I read a lot of books by female comedians; Dawn French's Dear Fatty, Miranda Hart writes very well, Jennifer Saunders' Bonkers.

What is your death row meal?

Tara: I'd have a really good T-bone steak with onion rings, Irish potatoes, and a sticky toffee pudding.
Fergus: I'd have a 24-hour cooked roast lamb with aubergines, and a nice inky South African pinotage wine to go with it. I'd be happy with that.

What do you spend most of the time doing in an airport?

Tara: I'm not somebody who's always there terribly early . . .
Fergus: Ha! ha!
Tara: I have to buy water, always, I cannot get on a flight without at least a litre.
Fergus: My life is one constant battle to try to eat the elephant of my email inbox. If I have 10 minutes in an airport, I'm getting through emails.

What is your favourite destination to visit?

Fergus: Italy, definitely. I just love it. There's so much to see and do, the food, wine, art, culture, the language, the way people express themselves, the openness of Italian people.
Tara: I'm travelling all the time. There are times when I need to be in a city like London or New York for the buzz of it, but that gets old real quick, you get exhausted by the speed of the city. There are times when I just need to be by the sea, that's the one thing I miss. I don't know that I have a favourite place that isn't here.

  • Fergus Sheil is the artistic director of Irish National Opera. Tara Erraught is the star of The Marriage of Figaro, which is at the Gaiety Theatre, April 17th-21st. irishnationalopera.ie