The stage might have gone dark for Fort Worth Opera this year, but the creative juices have continued to flow. The company's newest offering? Bernadette's Cozy Book Nook, an all-new digital opera whose setting is a Zoom call.
Yes, a virtual opera based on a virtual event. So 2020.
Composed by FWO artistic director Joe Illick and librettist Mark Campbell, the work will debut as a live-streaming event on January 14, 2021. It's the Fort Worth Opera's ninth world premiere.
Described in a release as "searingly clever" and "bitingly witty," the virtual comedy involves a book club Zoom call, The Handmaid's Tale, and some political discourse in the midst of a pandemic. Specifically, the release describes the plot like this:
"On April 27, 2020, The Cozy Book Nook, a book club with four retirees as members that usually convenes monthly in person, now meets online for the first time because of the pandemic. Bernadette, the club's president, tightens her tyrannical grip as the members are joined on Zoom by her young niece Eleanor, a recent graduate of Yale, to discuss the book of the month: Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. In forty mordantly funny minutes of life in the time of COVID-19, technology falters, political lines are sharply drawn, and Bernadette's book club becomes anything but cozy."
A setting of late April 2020 seems like "many decades ago" now, jokes Campbell. "Any resemblance between this quaint, small city book club and a nation beset by totalitarianism, inequality, and deep political divisiveness is purely coincidental," he says.
The opera is directed and edited by Cara Consilvio, and features opera legends Brenda Harris, Donnie Ray Albert, Joyce Castle, William Burden, FWO Lesley Resident Artist Gabrielle Gilliam, pianist Aldo López-Gavilán, and the world-renowned Harlem Quartet under the baton of music director and sound editor Andrew Whitfield.
"I feel so fortunate to have five sensational singing actors, an incredible musical ensemble, the best librettist any composer could ever wish for to create one of the first Zoom operas,” says Illick. “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.”
The show is part of the company’s new digital initiative FWO Green Room and the first of many exciting offerings next spring, FWO says.
Tickets for the digital streaming of Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook will be available online December 1, 2020, at www.fwopera.org/bookclub or by calling the Fort Worth Opera box office at 817-731-0726. (A VIP ticket will include a pre-show virtual reception and toast and post-show discussion with the creative team and cast on Opening Night, January 14.)
The show will remain available to watch online, January 14-24, 2021.