A Musical in 1 Act, 16 scenes: Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine based on the 1981 film Passione d'Amore after the novel Fosca by I.U. Tarchetti
Plymouth Theatre, New York 9 May 1994 - (280 perfs)
Queens Theatre, London 26 March (232 perfs)
Set in Italy in 1863, Giorgio Bachetti, a young soldier is bidding farewell to his mistress, Clara. He is to join his new regiment in the outposts of northern Italy but unfortunately, she will not be able to accompany him on his posting, not least because she is already married! However, they agree to keep in touch by a regular exchange of letters. Giorgio is a man going places. He has the confidence of his new commanding officer, Colonel Ricci and he is well-liked by his fellow officers.
Doctor Tambourri, the regimental doctor is caring for a special patient, Fosca, the cousin of the garrison commander. Fosca is a recluse, clad in black and seeking seclusion in her reading which is her only passion. In this remote outpost there is, however, a shortage of books and Giorgio lends her some of his books, amongst them being books of poetry. Giorgio is somewhat a dreamer but Fosca craves intellectual stimulus, and though frail and with an illness that manifests itself in hysterical convulsions, she clings to Giorgio.
In letters, Clara warns Giorgio to keep Fosca at arm's length but Fosca is already very dependent upon Giorgio. At dinner one evening she surreptitiously gives him a letter. Giorgio, realising the deep involvement Fosca has with him asks for leave which is reluctantly granted. Just a he is about to depart on leave, Fosca asks him to write to her. When Fosca finds out that Clara is already married, she becomes even more of a recluse shunning any contact with anyone except the doctor. The doctor believes that Fosca's condition will only improve if, and when, Giorgio visits with her again. When he does, Fosca dictates a letter that turns out to be a love letter from her to him.
Colonel Ricci tells Giorgio about Fosca's marriage to a worthless count. It was as a result of his profligate ways that made her ill and left her penniless. Giorgio goes walking and Fosca follows him. There is a rainstorm and this affects Fosca so much that she faints and has to be carried back to camp by Giorgio. He too falls ill and is granted sick leave to recuperate in Milan. Fosca follows him to the train which will take him away from her. He begs her to give him up and return to the camp where she can receive medical attention.
Giorgio's mistress meanwhile has made a choice, she will stay with her husband and bring up her family - the affair with Giorgio is over.
Back at the camp, a transfer notice organised by the doctor, arrives for Giorgio. This devastates Fosca who once again repairs to her room in much distress. The colonel discovers the love-letter, written by Giorgio although dictated by Fosca, and challenges Giorgio to a duel. That night Giorgio visits Fosca's room and acknowledges his love for her which they consummate. Next morning Giorgio is injured in the duel with the colonel. Months later a letter from the doctor informs Giorgio of Fosca's death just three days after the duel - which she new nothing about. A small box of Fosca's possessions is delivered to Giorgio in hospital. At last, he is alone.
Scenes & Settings
The action takes place in Milan and a remote military outpost, in 1863.
10 men, 4 women
Reed I (piccolo/flute/alto flute/clarinet
Reed II (clarinet)
Reed III (oboe/cor anglais/clarinet)
Reed IV (clarinet/bass clarinet/bassoon)
2 horns, trumpet db cornet, 2 keyboards, percussion, 2 violins, viola, 2 cellos, double bass