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My World with Pierce Turner:

A night at the opera


Pierce Turner.

Pierce Turner.

Pierce Turner.


The man at the door wanted to see my proof of vaccination. He had a very thick mask on, I couldn’t understand him very well. I found myself staring and wondering what it was made of. It was the equivalence of a gag, he might as well have a piece of gaffer tape stuck across his mouth. For some reason my phone was acting up, but in the end we got it to display my QR code and I entered the throbbing lobby.

At first it seemed like it was a lobby full of strangers mumbling behind decorative cloth masks, like a fancy dress ball. But then Clare waved at me, and I realised that it was her standing there with my sister Bernie and some friends.

It reminded me of the time I went to a church service in Harlem. The entire congregation was dressed to the nines, and I thought how great it was that they had this reason every week to doll themselves up to the maximum. Looking around that lobby, it looked like people had gone out and bought new outfits just for the occasion, and maybe they had.

Visually, the area seemed to be filled with dark classy dresses and large hats, and I may have even seen a couple of feathers. The sound of masked conversation softly blurred away through a coterie of rose, lavender and bergamot perfume.

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I tried to take part in the conversation but no one could understand what the other was saying with the surrendering of syllables to the thick cloth masks. I heard a lot of ‘Ha?’ and “Sorry?”

Clare and I decided to go into the theatre, we would have to forsake that excitement, and it was too laborious to comprehend through the ornate and impenetrable masks.

There it was, the splendid Theatre Royal. Standing with my back to the stage, I looked up at it. Curved wooden balconies rose in layers like the decks of a luxury liner. A feat of acoustic perfection, I knew that it was designed for opera, so that the sound would naturally be amplified without too much echo. I felt very proud that this was ours.

It was pointed out to me that my surgical mask was on inside out; I disagreed, I was sure of myself because a doctor in New York had corrected us for wearing the blue side out. I looked around the theatre and noticed that everyone was wearing the blue side out. I looked it up when I went home and they were right. I could kill that doctor in New York.

The musicians had been tuning lazily in the orchestra pit, but when the conductor marched to the podium, strict order came to place with great immediacy, he marked time with his baton and turned us a smile as he enthusiastically unleashed the first notes of Amhrán na bhFiann.

I wasn’t expecting it, usually I am at a hurling match when I hear it, a recording blasted through hard bulhorns. But this was soft, a 30-piece orchestra naturally amplified by walnut, hushing towards us like a sweet whisper. Everyone stood and sang, the words were on the screens I hadn’t read them since I was in school, I tried to sing, but was so overcome with emotion; couldn’t.

I was glad of the mask, it was something to hide my blubbering behind. My shoulders rose up in an attempt to quell tears. Why? I wondered. Pride, I suppose. Pride in this occasion, proud to be from Ireland, proud of Wexford, proud of our opera house and the Wexford Opera Festival.