Passion is inspired by Ettore Scola's 1981 film Passione d’Amore, itself adapted from the semi-autobiographical 1869 novel Fosca by Iginio Ugo Tarchetti, a member of Scapigliatura, “the disheveled ones,” an Italian literary movement that supplanted Enlightenment rationalism with Romanticism’s primacy of emotion.
From a ruined castle to a craggy mountainside to a train crossing untamed wilderness, Fosca and Giorgio rendezvous with the Romantic sublime: nature’s awesome triumph over imposed human order.
Intellectual exuberance reigns in Stephen Sondheim compositions; lyrics interlock as intricately as the puzzles he famously collects.
Reviewing Passion in the New York Times, David Richards marvels, “the lyric is surely one of Mr. Sondheim's most direct and most personal. There is, you'll notice, no face-saving wordplay, none of the old corrosive irony."
In the midst of his first major love affair—at age 61—Sondheim wrote Passion, he remembers, “about how the force of somebody's feelings for you can crack you open, and how it is the life force in a deadened world."