Passion

Book by James Lapine, based on Ettore Scola’s film Passione d’Amour and Iginio Ugo Tarchetti’s novel Fosca. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The original Broadway production opened on 9 May 1994 and was directed by James Lapine, running for 280 performances.

Synopsis and Musical Numbers

Italy, 1863. Giorgio Bachetti, a young soldier is bidding farewell to his mistress, Clara (HAPPINESS). He is to join his new regiment in the outposts of northern Italy. Unfortunately, Clara will not be able to accompany him on his posting. This is not because her feelings for Giorgio are not strong enough; it is mostly because she is already married. However, they agree to keep in touch by a regular exchange of letters (FIRST LETTER / SECOND LETTER / THIRD LETTER / FOURTH LETTER). Giorgio is a man going places. He has the confidence of his new commanding officer, Colonel Ricci and he is well-liked by his fellow officers.

Doctor Tambourri, the regimental doctor is caring for a special patient, Fosca, the cousin of the garrison commander. Fosca is a recluse, clad in black and seeking seclusion in her reading which is her only passion (I READ). In this remote outpost there is, however, a shortage of books. Giorgio lends Fosca some of his books, including several books of poetry. Giorgio is a dreamer but Fosca craves intellectual stimulus and, though frail and with an illness that manifests itself in hysterical convulsions, she clings to Giorgio. Giorgio is stunned (TRANSITION #1).

In letters, Clara warns Giorgio to keep Fosca at arm’s length but Fosca is already very dependent upon Giorgio (GARDEN SEQUENCE). At dinner one evening she surreptitiously gives him a letter. Giorgio, realising the deep obsession Fosca has with him asks for leave which is reluctantly granted (TRANSITION # 2). Just a he is about to depart on leave, Fosca asks him to write to her. Some time later, Fosca tearfully reads a letter from Giorgio, who is still swept up in his affair with Clara (TRIO). When Giorgio returns, Fosca interrogates him about his lover. When she finds out that Clara is already married, she becomes hysterical and then withdraws even further, shunning contact with anyone except her doctor. Three weeks pass with no contact between them (TRANSITION #3). The doctor believes that Fosca’s condition will only improve if Giorgio visits with her again. When he does, Fosca dictates a letter that turns out to be a love letter from her to him (I WISH I COULD FORGET YOU).

The other soldiers gossip about Giorgio and Fosca while playing pool (SOLDIERS’ GOSSIP #1).Colonel Ricci tells Giorgio about Fosca’s marriage to a worthless count. It was as a result of his profligate ways that made her ill and left her penniless (FLASHBACK). Giorgio goes walking, reading his latest letter from Clara (SUNRISE LETTER). Fosca follows him and, when she tries to kiss him, Giorgio lashes out at her in anger (IS THIS WHAT YOU CALL LOVE?). There is a rainstorm. Fosca faints and has to be carried back to camp by Giorgio (SOLDIERS’ GOSSIP #2). He too falls ill (NIGHTMARE) and is granted sick leave to recuperate in Milan (TRANSITION #4). Clara happily anticipates his sick leave (FORTY DAYS). When Giorgio leaves for the train station, Fosca follows him to the train that will take him away from her. He begs her to give him up and return to the camp where she can receive medical attention. She says she cannot (LOVING YOU). Giorgio is moved by the force of her emotions and he takes her back to the camp (TRANSITION #5). Startled to see Giorgio back so soon, the doctor warns him that he must stop seeing Fosca. She poses a threat to his mental and physical health and if Giorgio does not take a leave of absence, the doctor says he will have him transferred permanently. The other soldiers gossip about this latest turn of events (SOLDIERS’ GOSSIP #4).

Giorgio goes to Milan and tells Clara he will not take his full leave. This decision that provokes Clara to question him jealously about Fosca. Giorgio responds by asking Clara to leave her husband and run away with him. She refuses. Giorgio returns to the post and attends a Christmas party there (CHIRSTMAS CAROL). The festive mood is broken when a transfer notice organised by the doctor arrives for Giorgio. To the astonishment of the Colonel and the other soldiers, this devastates Fosca, who flies into Giorgio’s arms, begging him not to leave. She rushes from the room in tears. The Colonel, outraged, orders Giorgio to wait for him as he leaves the room to attend to his cousin. Stunned, Giorgio reads Clara’s latest letter: she has made a final choice to stay with her husband and bring up her family. Her affair with Giorgio is over (FAREWELL LETTER). Meanwhile, the colonel discovers the love-letter, written by Giorgio although dictated by Fosca, and challenges Giorgio to a duel. That night Giorgio visits Fosca’s room and acknowledges his love for her, after which they make passionate love (NO ONE HAS EVER LOVED ME). Next morning Giorgio is injured in THE DUEL with the colonel. Months later a letter from the doctor informs Giorgio of Fosca’s death just three days after the duel – of which she knew nothing. A small box of Fosca’s possessions is delivered to Giorgio in hospital. At last, he is alone (FINALE).

Mini Gallery

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Purchases from Amazon.com

From left to right above: 1. Passion 1994 Original Broadway Cast CD. 2. Passion 1997 Original London Cast CD. 3. Passion Trotter Trio CD. 4. The Musicality of Sondheim CD, with “Loving You” from Passion. 5. Renee and Bryn: Under the Stars CD, with songs from Passion.

From left to right above: 1. Passion Broadway Musical DVD. 2. The Stephen Sondheim Collection DVD Set, including Passion. 3. Passion D’Amour Non-Musical DVD. 4. Passion Script. 5. Passion Vocal Score.

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2 Responses to Passion

  1. Pingback: 5 Great Musicals of the 1990s « Musical Cyberspace

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