is--even for Stephen Sondheim--a remarkable musical, a brooding meditation on love and passion that is at once simple and deeply moving. In it, Sondheim, often criticized for being cerebral, proves he can write a show's worth of lush, emotionally honest songs. Moreover, a close reading of Lapine's book reveals how much his work contributes to the show's power. Based on Italian filmmaker Ettore Scola's Passione d'Amore
(1981) and its source, the novel Fosca
(1869) by I. U. Tarchetti, Lapine's book has a polished singleness of purpose rare in musical theater. The dialogue is spare, and the story--about an army officer torn between two lovers, one pretty but shallow the other plain but deep--advances with breathtaking economy. It must, to make way for the songs. Yet the book does not feel incomplete; read without Sondheim's music, the libretto (Lapine's book and Sondheim's own beautiful lyrics) registers as a fully engaging, if somewhat poetic, work that stands complete in its own right. Jack Helbig
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.