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Musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine based on the film Passione d'Amore (1981) directed by Ettore Scola, and on the novel Fosca by I. U. Tarchetti.
Palace Theatre Manchester
Theatre Royal Nottingham
Queen's Theatre London
Concert Production (Cast Recording)
This was the show's UK premiere.
Passion moves between 19th century Milan and an austere provincial army post as a young soldier, Giorgio (Michael Ball), tries to resolve his passion for his mistress Clara (Helen Hobson) and an increasing attraction to the strange isolated figure of Fosca (Maria Friedman) - his Colonel's cousin.
Passion was the third musical created by Stephen Sondheim with writer and director James Lapine following Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. (The London West End production of Sunday in the Park with George also featured Maria Friedman.)
Maria on Passion
When Jeremy Sams, her partner at the time, returned from the US with a tape of Sondheim's Passion, which he was hoping to direct, the chord heralding Fosca's entrance told Friedman the part was made for her: "I told him to turn off the tape immediately. I had to play that role. He pointed out that I hadn't heard her songs yet. But I knew I didn't need to. It was so extraordinary to play a woman who has only a few days left to live but is still getting it wrong. 'Fosca' was so human, not one of those fluttery heroines who die prettily." [read full interview]
"My plasticine face has meant that I can do characters like Fosca in Stephen Sondheim's Passion. Fosca is dying and is described in the script as so frightening to look at that she made people scream and wince. I hardly had to use any make-up. People would come up to me afterwards and say the make-up was incredible. How long did it take to put it on? The truth was, not long." [read full interview]
Cast (Theatre Production)
Cast (Concert Production)
Notes: The above list is from the CD recording.
Helen Hobson left the theatre production a couple of weeks before the show closed to enable her to start rehearsals for the Cliff Richard musical Heathcliffe.
At the 1997 Olivier Awards, Maria won the 'Best Actress in a Musical' for her role in this show - this was her second Olivier Award (her first was for her solo show Maria Friedman By Special Arrangement).
Quotes From The Press
"Miss Friedman is a saving revelation. She may revel in suffering too much. But there she stands - unrecognisably plain - as a melancholy hysteric who sets her heart upon the unwilling Captain and actually hooks him with ardour. In glorious voice she catches the pathos and joy of a woman achieving love late and against all the odds..." Nicholas De Jongh, The London Evening Standard (27 March 1996)
"There is no doubt about it. The Olivier Award-winning Maria Friedman is not only among the finest singers on London's musical stage at the present time. She is its greatest actress. Without her mesmersing performance - cast courageously against type as the plain, neurotic and clinging Fosca in Stephen Sondheim's latest journey into the labyrinth of the human heart - the evening could well have been retitled Songs To Cut Your Throat By... [Sondheim's] score on this occasion remains irritatingly cool and dispassionate. This is unforgivable. Even if he had confined himself to the lush waltz-time of the period, he should have produced at least one musical moment to lift us from our seats. As it is, only Miss Friedman, her voice severely under-tested, contrives to do this by sheer force of her physical presence... [Miss Friedman] allows you to know the rapacious power of the weak. And when she comes blinkingly down for her curtain call, the immediate standing ovation which greets her tells its own story. Thanks to her, this is as moving and thought-provoking and as memorable as we have come to expect from Sondheim. But I would be most reluctant to see it again without her." Jack Tinker, The Daily Mail (27 March 1996)
"...The best reason for seeing the show is Maria Friedman's Fosca. It is not just that, with her swept-back hair and ghastly pallor, she manages to persuade us she is plain. What she captures, particularly in the first half, is the demonic nature of Fosca's love: her hands ominously flutter in the air and when she offers Giorgio a flower it is as if she is presenting a poisoned chalice. Friedman not only sings beautifully but gives a perfect display of controlled neurosis..." Michael Billington, The Guardian (27 March 1996)
"...With her hair scraped back in a bun and the complexion of a cadaver, the superb Maria Friedman brings both a creepy demonic intensity to Fosca and a heart rending ardour..." Paul Taylor, The Independent (28 March 1996)
"...Maria Friedman makes a striking personal transformation to play Fosca: heavy make up, dark hair, swept severely back, her intense, crisp delivery marking her out as a figure from melodrama. Friedman energetically extends her vibrato into her physical performance: shaky hands, wobbly walk and quivering chin..." Robert Butler, The Independent on Sunday (31 March 1996)
"...Maria Friedman's skulking, vocally tremendous Fosca is one of the great great performances of our musical stage, growing from tremulous, gnawing agitation - she savagely grasps Giorgio's hand under the table at dinner - to full throated, cataclysmic desperation and fulfilment. The first act ends on her blood-curdling scream, the second on an unprecedented smile of sickly radiance.." Michael Coveney, Observer (31 March 1996)
"...What does carry you forward is Maria Friedman's performance as Fosca. Thick eyebrows, shiny black hair scraped back into a bun, unhealthy pallor - it certainly represents a triumph on the part of the make-up department. But Miss Friedman goes far beyond clever impersonation. Both her acting and her singing have a memorable scary intensity..." John Gross, The Sunday Telegraph (31 March 1996)
"...It is Maria Friedman who provides this delicate, resonant chamber musical with its dramatic centre of gravity. In an astonishingly bold and vocally authoritative performance, she turns a potentially irritating character into a deeply vulnerable victim of love who ultimately demands your compassion and your respect. Indeed, the real miracle of her performance is the way she makes you accept - unconditionally - the woman's inner beauty and Giorgio's unlikely change of heart towards her..." Clive Hirschhorn, The Sunday Express (31 March 1996)
"...Maria Friedman gives the finest and most harrowing performance of her career. This is unlike anything I have seen in musical theatre..." John Peter, The Sunday Times (31 March 1996)
"...Maria Friedman gives a pretty amazing perforamnce as the sickly temptress. She is going to be a huge star..." Jon Barnsley, The News of the World (7 April 1996)
The Concert Production held at the Golder's Green Hippodrome was recorded 12 to 15 June 1997.
The Recording Engineer was NICK GOMM and it was Mixed and Edited by DAVID HUNT at Angel Studios London. The Producer was Chris Walker.
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