Fort Worth Opera Announces World Premiere Streaming of ‘Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook’

By Chris Ruel

Fort Worth Opera (FWO) announced the world premiere of “Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook,” a film by composer and FWO Artistic Director Joe Illick and Pulitizer Prize and Grammy® Award-winning librettist Mark Campbell.

The film, part of FWO’s Green Room digital initiative, premieres on January 14, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. CST, and runs through January 24.

“Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook,” is a 40-min comedic opera about a book club consisting of four retirees who ordinarily convene in person. However, COVID-19 forces the club—run by its tyrannical president, Bernadette—to meet online for the first time. Bernadette’s niece and recent Yale graduate, Eleanor, joins the discourse, tightening her aunt’s grip on power. Things turn less than cozy as tech issues arise and politics intrude while the club discusses Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“‘Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook’one of the first operas actually set on a Zoom call, takes place many decades ago—in late April 2020,” Campbell said in the FWO press release. “Any resemblance between this quaint, small city book club and a nation beset by totalitarianism, inequality, and deep political divisiveness is purely coincidental.”

The film features Brenda Harris (Bernadette), Donnie Ray Albert (Larry), William Burden (Emmett), Gabrielle Gilliam (Eleanor), and Joyce Castle (Marcia). Albert, Burden, and Gilliam’s performances are company debuts. Backing the vocalists is pianist Aldo López-Gavilán and the Harlem String Quartet, both making their FWO debuts.

“Like everyone, I wish there had never been a pandemic that forced us to create opera this way, but we are doing our best to stay in touch with our friends and with the world during this scary time. I hope that this piece helps bring some solace and reminds people that we are still all connected to one another, perhaps more than ever,” Illick stated in the release.

FWO is also offering Bernadette’s VIP Experience with a pre-show virtual reception and toast at 6:45 p.m., and a post-show discussion with the entire creative team and cast at 8:15 p.m.