Passion

When I first heard Stephen Sondheim’s Passion years and years ago I absolutely hated it. I thought it was boring and didn’t go anywhere. Now it is one of my favorite Sondheim scores – if only because it is so singable – especially for the male characters.

For the devolution of Sweeney Todd I admire Passion‘s lushness and warmth (try track #9 ‘Transition’ and tell me that’s not mystical music-making at work). When the harpsichord kicks in at the beginning of I Read and sulking, skulking, homely Fosca intimates her love affair with literature…

I do not read to think. I do not read to learn. I do not read to search for truth. I know the truth – the truth is hardly what I need. I read to dream. I read to live in other people’s lives.

It’s that kind of texture that makes what at first appears as a show about love in all it’s forms because about love in all of it’s contexts: obsessive and freed, knowing and naive. It’s not just standard musical theatre I LOVE YOU fare – there’s details and trade-offs, compulsions and divisions. And though the plotting of the show may be melodramatic – Fosca seems to just be such a sullen beeyotch you just want to see Dammit woman take a Zoloft! – you can’t contest such metaphors as comparing the love of warfare and the love of a another:

They hear drums, you hear music, as do I – don’t you see? We’re the same, we are different – you and I are different – they hear only drums!

Seeing a documentary about the original production of the show clued me into the ideas the authors were playing with – where the scenic design, lighting and all the score and lyric elements were echoing a style of painting and storytelling that isn’t as easy as Point A to B.

And at the end of this meditation when big man on campus Giorgio contends:

Now at last I see what comes from feeling loved. Strange how merely feeling loved you see things clearly – things I feared – but the world itself I now love dearly: I want to live. Now I want to live just from being loved…. Why is love so easy to give and so hard to receive? But though I want to live I now can leave with what I never knew: I am someone to be loved and that I learned from you.

It’s twists like that make me unsurprised that Sondheim loves crossword puzzles. I’m sure I’ve noted this before but that twist in Into the Woods where the Baker’s Wife gets seduced by a wandering Prince and considers her fidelity to The Baker:

Let the Moment go – but don’t forget it for a moment though. Just remembering you’ve had an And when you’re back to Or makes the Or mean more than it did before – maybe that’s what woods are for: for those Moments in the woods.

The love of language is so present, expert and deft!

I think a big part of a friendship and falling in love with your friends is that you also fall in love with the Better You that they see within you. They see your greatness and mirror and remind you of that.

Big musical theatre geeks: tell me you don’t finish sentences with an off-handed probably because it’s ruined! to add a Fosca-touch to daily conversation.

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