Eastman Opera opens with 'She Loves Me'

05:00 AM, Nov 03, 2013

Alicia Ault plays the female lead, Amalia Balash, on Friday and next Sunday in Eastman Opera Theatre's production of She Loves Me. (Photo provided by Eastman)/


Written By Daniel J. Kushner

Eastman Opera Theatre on Thursday opens an exhilaratingly varied season that mixes the Baroque opera Xerxes by G.F. Handel and Francois Poulenc’s 20th-century gem Dialogues des Carmélites with something altogether different: She Loves Me, a 1963 Broadway musical with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

She Loves Me, which runs Thursday through Sunday, might not ring a bell but could be more familiar to you than you think. Written by the same creative team that produced Fiddler on the Roof, the musical is based on the 1937 play Parfumerie, which also has been adapted multiple times for the silver screen, most recently in 1998 with You’ve Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

In the Bock-Harnick adaptation, we meet George and Amalia, co-workers at a perfume shop whose real-life disagreements belie their genuine connection as anonymous pen pals falling in love, each unaware of the other’s true identity.

It is a timeless love story, not in that sort of ‘love at first sight’ romantic way, but more in that there’s the tradition of the two principals who really can’t stand each other until they realize that they’re actually in love with each other,” says stage director Stephen Carr, making his directorial debut as Eastman Opera’s assistant director.

The production, conducted by Wilson Southerland, is double-cast, with Matt Moisey and Danika Felty splitting the performances with Sam Grosby and Alicia Ault as George and Amalia.

Grosby and Ault, both Eastman juniors studying vocal performance, see similarities and differences in the pen pal relationship and today’s Facebook culture.

I think there’s something really romantic about receiving a letter that is very different than the social media of today,” Ault says. “But at the same time, (George and Amalia meet) through an ad that was in the newspaper for a Lonely Hearts Club. … It is very much kind of like an old version of the new dating sites like eHarmony.”

Grosby says being a pen pal is similar to Facebook in terms of emotional separation.

You feel like you can say whatever you want and do whatever you want because you don’t actually know the person, really,” he says.

The production will be performed in Eastman’s Kilbourn Hall, an ideal recital space that presents certain limitations when attempting to employ set changes.

With this in mind, Carr and company have opted to go with a motif-centric set design featuring the notion of the love letter and perfume bottles.

I also have played off the idea of the two primary characters sort of living in their own worlds until they finally come together,” Carr says.

To round out the season, Xerxes will be performed Jan. 23 to 26, and Dialogues des Carmélites April 3 to 6.

If you go

If you go

What: Eastman Opera Theatre’s production of She Loves Me.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 2 p.m. next Sunday.

Where: Kilbourn Hall, 26 Gibbs St.

Cost: $20.

For tickets: (585) 454-2100 or esm.rochester.edu/concerts/tickets.