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Passion

BCfitasafiddle
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Passion#1
Posted: 7/29/20 at 8:37pm

The first broadway show I ever saw was the original cast of Sondheim's Passion. I was young so a lot went over my head, but I remember being so invested in the love story. Does anyone else have memories of the show? I gave it another listen today and I just love some of these songs.

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CATSNYrevival
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Passion#2
Posted: 7/29/20 at 8:39pm
I think it’s brilliant and I love the score. I’ve read some negative comments here but it’s one of my favorite Sondheim scores.
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John Adams
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Passion#3
Posted: 7/29/20 at 10:17pm

I love the show. My favorite moment is "Farewell Letter". (I've often isolated the 6 letters on the CD to play by themselves. They make an interesting playlet of Giorgio and Clara's relationship.)

In all the previous letters, the salutations are read/sung without pause, continuing directly into the body of the letters. It shows Giorgio's level of attention to what Clara has written. "Farewell Letter" is different. Clara has to sing the salutation (Giorgio) three times before his attention is captured, and then Clara continues to sing the body of the letter. (On the CD, she sings the salutation twice; in the DVD performance, she sings it three times.)

I think it's so brilliant how Sondheim has used that repeated musical cue to convey Giorgio's distracted state. Not to mention how effective the underscoring is, under each letter, in relaying more information. I love how ominously melancholy the underscoring is under "Farewell Letter" (especially the oboe... English horn?).

Original criticisms of the show painted Fosca as a creepy, stalker-type. Reportedly, some audience members laughed at her character. I've never found that to be true for me. The original source material is Italian. I've always seen Fosca as operatically tragic.

I love the score and the show. It's one of my favorites.

Updated On: 7/29/20 at 10:17 PM
BCfitasafiddle
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Passion#4
Posted: 7/29/20 at 10:23pm

John Adams, I love what you said about her being operatically tragic. So true. I yearn for a revival of this show (Benanti!!), but I wonder how it would be reacted to. It's not universally known as say, Sweeney Todd.

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MichelleCraig
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Passion#5
Posted: 7/29/20 at 10:32pm

I remember seeing it on Broadway while it was in previews. At the performance I attended, there were people heckling it and a good number of them walked out and did not return. It was rather uncomfortable to sit through because you could literally feel the tension in the house. I enjoyed and admired it at the time, but the friend I attended with hated it. He still comments about it to this day. Very recently, a production in Pasadena, CA had to be canceled due to COVID19 and he forwarded the announcement to me with the comment, "Awwwww..." I think it took the Tony recognition for a lot of people to rethink their opinions.

Michael Brandman captured the original cast, on film, and the performance was released on laserdisc and DVD from a company I worked for. I organized an audio commentary (the organization of which is practically a book in and of itself) for the DVD release. I was determined to get Sondheim, Lapine and the leads to participate. Long story short, I got them all...the toughest to track down was Jere Shea who had left the business after PASSION, but I found him!

So Stephen, James, Marin, Donna, Jere and Ira Weitzman all gathered at a recording studio on December 18, 2002, to record the commentary. I'm sure some of you have heard it... It was a great time and I still have the 14 X 22" lobby card that all of the participants signed for me. The commentary is great, but we couldn't use all of it... Marin had a particularly hilarious story about having a reaction, during one performance, to the Ben Gay that Jere was using to combat a muscle injury. The reaction occurred during their opening scene together. I'll almost leave it at that...except to say that, in recounting the story, Marin broke out into her own personal rewrite of a Sweeney Todd lyric and proclaimed, "Pussy on fire! Pussy on fire!" 

All six participants were wonderful and giving of their time. I remember we had wine and cheese available for all, but I can only recall Mr. Sondheim taking a glass of red and maybe only taking a few sips.

Several months later, I was flying back to Los Angeles from NYC and had been upgraded (I was addicted to airmiles and of Executive Platinum status on American Airlines back then). While I was seated, Marin and Jason boarded the plane and were heading to coach. I told them that, if possible, I would upgrade them with miles. Unfortunately, the cabin doors were closed and I was not able to make it happen. I'd never met Jason before, but they were both so gracious.

So, OP, that's my PASSION story. Years later, I reached out to a number of people about doing a Blu-ray of the production, since it had been originally captured on film, not tape...but through a number of consolidations and mergers, it was impossible to locate the original film elements. James, if you ever see this post, I am sorry. Seems like, somehow, the big D (wink wink) probably possesses the rights to this recording now...through ABC.

Updated On: 7/29/20 at 10:32 PM
AEA AGMA SM
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Passion#6
Posted: 7/29/20 at 11:19pm

I did not realize that the DVD wasn't released until 2003. It feels like one I've had for forever, but it does make sense that I must have been watching it on VHS while in undergrad, since I didn't start buying DVDs until I got my first laptop in the spring of 2002 (right before finishing my degree).

Did you know that every day Mexican gays cross our borders and unplug our brain-dead ladies?
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CATSNYrevival
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Passion#7
Posted: 7/29/20 at 11:29pm
I would love to see Passion on blu-ray. The DVD quality is as good as it can be but it could be a real treat in HD.
Alex Kulak2
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Passion#8
Posted: 7/30/20 at 12:19am

I enjoy the show too. One thing I didn't notice until recently was how restrained the rhyming is in Sondheim's lyrics. I mentioned this in another thread, but the lyrics are much more operatic than in his other shows, rhyming simply or not at all (with exceptions like The Soldier's Gossip and Count Ludovic's Betrayal of Fosca).

A melodramatic story, music before lyrics; forget Sweeney ToddPassion is Sondheim's opera.

VintageSnarker
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Passion#9
Posted: 7/30/20 at 4:50am

John Adams said: "Original criticisms of the show painted Fosca as a creepy, stalker-type. Reportedly, some audience members laughed at her character."

I didn't get the show at all when I watched the recording of the original cast. Donna Murphy was so cartoonishly plain and bitter and Giorgio seemed so shallow. I love the CSC cast album though. I actually believed that Judy Kuhn and Ryan Silverman had an intellectual connection and a sensitivity that separated them from the people around them. Giorgio didn't want to admit to it because he couldn't see past her looks. And unlike in the original, I believed that Fosca saw more in him than a pretty face. 

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imeldasturn
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Passion#10
Posted: 7/30/20 at 5:06am

In 2005 Judy Kuhn and Michael Cerveris reprised their roles from the Kennedy Center production in a concert for Sondheim's 75th birthday (a highlight of the concert was later made available to buy in the CD Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim). They performed the whole "Loving You" sequence and I honestly forgot what a beautiful, well written and poignant moment it is.

Updated On: 7/30/20 at 05:06 AM
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Passion#11
Posted: 7/30/20 at 9:54am

I think I was 23 when I saw the original production and I remember it had a hypnotic quality to it. Sondheim provided a nearly continuous carpet of music, so everything was underscored. I still remember thinking that the "Loving You" sequence was heartbreaking.

I saw it after the Tony nominations had come out but before the awards, so the audience was pretty much aware that they were "supposed" to like it, so there was an enthusiastic reaction.

One particular moment I remember about attending was that, when Donna Murphy took her bow, I remarked, "Bravo" to my friend. The older gentleman next to me shot me side-eye and corrected me with, "Brav-A". I rolled my eyes at the time, but now it's the sort of thing I would probably do, lol.

I'm sending pictures of the most amazing trees/You'll be obsessed with all my forest expertise
BCfitasafiddle
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Passion#12
Posted: 7/30/20 at 2:44pm

"One particular moment I remember about attending was that, when Donna Murphy took her bow, I remarked, "Bravo" to my friend. The older gentleman next to me shot me side-eye and corrected me with, "Brav-A". I rolled my eyes at the time, but now it's the sort of thing I would probably do, lol."

Aww that's so sweet! What a memory.

Jarethan
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Passion#13
Posted: 7/30/20 at 4:53pm

I have a very schizophrenic personality when it comes to Sondheim musicals.  I think that Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music are true masterpieces.  I do not think Follies is a masterpiece, but I think the original production was a masterpiece, the greatest evening in the theatre I have had to date.  I think Company, SITPWG, and Merrily have greatness in them, though I have some issues with all three, though not with the scores, which are brilliant.  I thoroughly enjoy the score to Anyone Can Whistle, although I have never seen the show live.  And,even if he did not write the music for WSS and Gypsy, his lyrics for Gypsy are incredible, and, despite 'its alarming how charming I feel', I think the lyrics for WSS are overall gorgeous.

On the other hand, I intensely dislike / hate several of his musicals, the top one being Passion.  I hated it from beginning to end.  Since I sometimes do not like Sondheim shows until I have become a little familiar with the score, I thought that may have been a factor here.  I played the CD 3 or 4 times, and never warmed up even a speck.  So, I don't even like the score. There is something about the show and the music that grated at me and I still can't articulate why...really odd since I love Donna Murphy and Marin Mazzie had a great voice.

PS -- The other two i really disliked were Pacific Overtures and Into the Woods, although I did manage to enjoy the movie a decent amount.

Updated On: 7/30/20 at 04:53 PM
The Scorpion
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Passion#14
Posted: 7/30/20 at 5:06pm

Has anyone seen the film it's based on, or even the ulterior novel? I keep wondering whether to check them out.

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imeldasturn
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Passion#15
Posted: 7/30/20 at 6:02pm

I think it's always important to remember that Sondheim and Lapine's source is not Tarchetti's Fosca, but Scola's movie Passione d'amore, in which Fosca is a much more sympathetic character than in the original novel. For Sondheim "the story was not about how she is going to fall in love with him, but about how he is going to fall in love with her", which is somehow at odds with the novel's opening sentences, where Giorgio states that "more than an analysis of an affection, more than a love story, I am perhaps making here a diagnosis of an illness: I didn't feel that love, I suffered from it".

Fosca is not a particularly good novel, it's interesting from a linguistic point of view but nothing more. It belongs to the artistic movement known as "Scapigliatura", which is a sort of link between the late (and worse) Romanticism and early Decadentism in Italian literature, and Fosca took the worst of the two worlds. The symbolism is not very subtle either, Tarchetti literally calls his heroines Light (Clara) and Dark (Fosca). The novel is more Fosca-centric than the musical tho, Clara is only remembered, while Fosca is narrated, and even if she appears only after one-third of the novel she still pervades the first forty pages or so with her screams and the ominous empty chair next to Giorgio, like in the musical.

It's interesting how much of himself Tarchetti put in the novel. Like Giorgio, Tarchetti had a scandalous affair with the relative of one of his superiors, a dying epileptic woman with dark hair and eyes (like Fosca), which hurt his military career. But Tarchetti was also a bit of a Fosca himself, he had been seriously ill since childhood and died before finishing the novel, which was completed by Salvatore Farina (who wrote the sex scene). It's interesting to read if you are a fan of the musical, otherwise it's just a morbid melodrama. 

Updated On: 7/30/20 at 06:02 PM
Owen22
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Passion#16
Posted: 7/30/20 at 7:21pm

I did not like Passion much when I saw its first preview. The audience absolutely hated it. That was when Donna had the huge mole and bravely played her almost completely unsympathetically. Loving You was not in the score yet. When she shows up on the hill when Giorgio is reading his letter from Clara you could hear the audience groan and then laugh, "Oh, no!" They laughed again when she passes out and applauded when he, at first, decides to walk away and leave her there. I saw it again later in previews and they had given Fosca her love song and everything was a little more...smoothed out. But I personally didn't like it much more. It seems like the sort of show that should kill me emotionally and it didn't. It's worn me down over the years however, and I've come to realize that the show's success does not lie in Fosca. It is Giorgio. Ryan Silverman, who I have not much liked in anything else, was perfection in the Judy Kuhn version, making if my favorite. The Argentine actress who (unsuccessfully) played Evita in the Ricky Martin revival, can't remember her name, was the best Fosca (Donmare Warehouse)I have ever seen and the Lincoln Center televised version with Patti LuPone as Fosca featured Audra McDonald as the greatest of Claras in my opinion.

Updated On: 7/30/20 at 07:21 PM
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imeldasturn
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Passion#17
Posted: 7/30/20 at 7:28pm
Elena Roger. And Patti as Fosca must be one of the worst performances I have ever seen. Audra and Michael were fantastic tho.
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Passion#18
Posted: 7/30/20 at 11:29pm

I liked Patti. It was only a concert. I would have liked to have seen what she could have done in a full production with adequate rehearsal time.

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Passion#19
Posted: 7/31/20 at 12:21am

CATSNYrevival said: "I liked Patti. It was only a concert. I would have liked to have seen what she could have done in a full production with adequate rehearsal time."

Me too!! And to be fair, she was originally offered the role in the original production, but chose to do Sunset instead, something she obviously regrets. Her vocals in the concert is probably the most unmannered I've heard her sing, along with her Lovett in Doyle's Sweeney. 

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Passion#20
Posted: 7/31/20 at 2:24am

All of this discussion is making me want to give the recorded version of the show another chance. I didn't really care for the musical (never saw it live), as it struck me as overwrought and often ridiculous, but it's stuck with me more than most shows I initially dislike. Fascinating that "Loving You" was another late addition to the musical. Perhaps my relationship to this show will turn out to be like Giorgio's with Fosca.  

Probably not, but I'll concede it was some pretty songs. Unlike many of his shows, its score is not one I would have guessed as being written by Sondheim if I didn't already know beforehand.

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Passion#21
Posted: 7/31/20 at 4:59am

Owen22 said: "The Argentine actress who (unsuccessfully) played Evita in the Ricky Martin revival, can't remember her name, was the best Fosca (Donmare Warehouse)I have ever seen."

Elena Roger was magnificent in the Donmar Passion, as war pretty much everyone else in that show. Probably the last Jamie Lloyd revival I actually liked. And while Roger may have been unsuccessful on Broadway, in London her Eva was nothing short of a triumph.

imeldasturn said: "
Fosca is not a particularly good novel, it's interesting from a linguistic point of view but nothing more. It belongs to the artistic movement known as "Scapigliatura", which is a sort of link between the late (and worse) Romanticism and early Decadentism in Italian literature, and Fosca took the worst of the two worlds. The symbolism is not very subtle either, Tarchetti literally calls his heroines Light (Clara) and Dark (Fosca). The novel is more Fosca-centric than the musical tho, Clara is only remembered, while Fosca is narrated, and even if she appears only after one-third of the novel she still pervades the first forty pages or so with her screams and the ominousempty chair next to Giorgio,like in the musical.

It's interesting how much of himself Tarchetti put in the novel. Like Giorgio, Tarchettihad a scandalousaffair with the relative of one of his superiors, a dyingepileptic woman with dark hair and eyes (like Fosca), which hurt his military career. But Tarchetti was also a bit of a Fosca himself, he had been seriously ill since childhood and died before finishing the novel, which was completed by Salvatore Farina (who wrote the sex scene). It's interesting to read if you are a fan of the musical, otherwise it's just a morbid melodrama.
"

Thanks for the thoughts! I am going through a bit of an Italian literature phase, so this was on my list of "possibles". I want to see the film, but it seems quite difficult to get hold of.

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Passion#22
Posted: 7/31/20 at 5:27am

The Scorpion said: "I want to see the film, but it seems quite difficult to get hold of."

 

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Passion#23
Posted: 7/31/20 at 5:45am

I would love to hear more RE: the "whys" from those folks who don't care for the show or the score. I didn't get to see the show until it was broadcast on PBS, and then I later bought the DVD. For me, I was completely enamored from the first listen. It's not that I think anyone should change their mind if the show/score doesn't appeal, but I'm interested to know more... Passion

I'm first gen US citizen, of Italian (maternal)/British (paternal) lineage, and I definitely feel I've inherited that stereotypical Italian appreciation for operatic tragedy and melodrama. Suor Angelica is my favorite opera - still makes me weep EVERY time I hear it, but more to the point is the enjoyment I get from a good cry.

Perhaps the above makes a difference?

BCfitasafiddle
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Passion#24
Posted: 7/31/20 at 10:36am
I love all the discussion this is bringing about the show. Each side is understandable in the case of this unusual show.

I will admit, I tried to watch it last night. I didn’t even know it was on YouTube. It was very hard. Not because I didn’t like
I, but when I was watching Marin Mazzie it was really emotional for some reason. She’s such a part of why I love theatre, especially with Passion being my first Broadway show. She looked so beautiful, sounded stunning as always, and what a character. Watching it made me miss her so very much.
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Passion#25
Posted: 7/31/20 at 1:18pm

The night I saw PASSION I stage doored the show afterward. I wanted to ask Donna Murphy if her make-up changed in the final scene. She said yes and that her face make-up was lightened. I told her she looked truly beautiful and she smiled and said that was the effect she was after. A moment later Marin Mazzie was standing next to me when a small woman stepped on my foot as she was walking down the street and apologized profusely. I immediately recognized her. And so did Mazzie who turned to me and asked me if I knew who had just stepped on my foot. I said, "Uh-huh." It was Chita Rivera. Quite a memorable evening.