The theatre of Stephen Sondheim can be, to the ready soul, a almost religious experience, and that's no exaggeration. I'm an average guy with a job, an apartment, some friends and some hobbies; I like swimming, biking and running and got a life, albeit a quiet, uneventful one. I've had my trials by fire in the neighborhood of my heart more than once and I've been as confused about it as a dumb pup with a stinging slapped nose. But when I see or listen to a Sondheim musical, and especially PASSION, what goes on between my two ears and in my heart becomes special, precious and abiding. He gives shape and understanding to the conflicting feelings of love and passion in all their caprices and disappointments, and he pulls no punches in the disappointment and brokenheart department. I saw the New York production of PASSION and was deeply moved by the music. Fosca, nearly deranged with obsession, alientated the audience from believing in her love. Then I went to the London production and, buddy, it flew! It's about LOVE, unconditional, unrelenting love, crystal clear and bitter when unfulfilled. There wasn't a dry eye in the house during the last 20 minutes. I sat there thinking my heart would fly out of my chest with feeling. There ain't many of 'em that can work that kind of magic in the theatre these days, let me tell you.
Almost every song on this album aches. Even the first conversational duet HAPPINESS causes pain in the heart. Clara and Georgio are obviously in love with love ("how quickly pity leads to love") as they go over their chance meeting and pick-up in the park. I WISH I COULD FORGET YOU is shocking with the agony of sustained, unfulfilled love ("how could I ever wish you away?" she asks hopelessly) which leads to the perfect conclusion echoed throughout the entire musical that "should you die tomorrow, your love will live in me." Fosca dies, not of the illness described in the plot, but of love. Although this reeks of grand opera, Sondheim brings it down to such a delicate heartbeat of feeling that it seems as natural as breathing. Georgio learns to accept love and its disappointments the way we all do, by heartache and pain. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
This album should be given only by perscription. It's effect is so overwhelming that you need a doctor's supervision to get through it.