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Theatre / Passion

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"No one has ever loved me
As deeply as you.
No one has truly shown me
What love could be like until now:
Not pretty or safe or easy
But more than I ever knew.
Love within reason -
That isn't love."
— "No One Has Ever Loved Me"

Passion is a 1994 musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. Set in 19th century Italy, it concerns a young soldier named Giorgio and the changes in him brought about by the obsessive love of Fosca, his colonel's homely, ailing cousin. It's noticeably even more serious than other Sondheim musicals — the only humor comes in the Soldier's Gossip songs, and even those are fairly dark.


This musical provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Fosca is a Played for Drama example.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: The entire show, essentially.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: It's based on the 1869 novel Fosca by Iginio Ugo Tarchetti, and the 1981 Ettore Scola film Passione d'Amore, the latter of which inspired Sondheim to write the show.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: "No One Has Ever Loved Me" and "Loving You".
  • Betty and Veronica: Played with, with Giorgio as Archie. When we first meet Fosca, she's the Veronica to Giorgio's lover Clara. But as the show progresses, Fosca becomes less "dangerous" and Clara becomes less reliable and sweet, and they eventually swap roles. Their attire reflects this change, Fosca's starting out dark and becoming light, while Clara's does the opposite.
  • Bookworm: Both Fosca and Giorgio.
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  • Dark Reprise: Parts of "I Wish I Could Forget You", in which Fosca forces Giorgio to write a falsely loving letter to her, are repeated in the finale when Giorgio is alone and Fosca is dead after their night together.
  • Death by Sex: Fosca's demise — but then again, "to die loved is to have lived."
  • Epistolary Novel: Or musical, rather. Much of the show is people reading (well, singing) letters to each other. There's the first letter, the second letter, the third letter, the fourth letter, the sunrise get the point. It was, in fact, the only epistolary musical ever written until the debut of the Daddy-Long-Legs musical in 2009.
  • Gossipy Hens: Gossipy Soldiers.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Fosca, although it is revealed by the Colonel that she grew up thinking she was beautiful, until the death of her parents.
  • Love Hurts: And how!
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Upon winning the duel with the Colonel, Giorgio lets out a scream much like Fosca's — hers are due to her "nervous disposition".
  • MacGuffin: Arguably the letter Fosca dictates to Giorgio on her deathbed, which is very loving although he does not believe he loves her at that point. Fosca recovers, her cousin discovers the letter, and he challenges Giorgio to a duel.
  • Nightmare Sequence: In a fever dream towards the beginning of the second act, Giorgio dreams that Fosca is pulling him down into the grave with her, with "cold tentacles" embracing him.
  • Reconstruction: Of the archetypal love epic.
  • Self-Proclaimed Love Interest: Fosca refers to Clara as her "rival", which isn't far from the truth, eventually.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Fosca to Giorgio.

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