DIVA TALK: A Conversation with Two-Time Tony Nominee and Passion Star Melissa Errico

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01 Mar 2013

Melissa Errico, Ryan Silverman and Judy Kuhn
Photo by Josh Lehrer

Question: I remember with the original, some people bought the story and some people didn't. Can you see both sides to that, that some wouldn't think Giorgio would end up with Fosca?
Errico: I don't really know if we should even think of it as believable. It's a poem. I think what John Doyle would like you to think is that this is a poem, and these are ideas, and her love is without artifice and without superficial allure. There is no superficial allure. [Fosca] doesn't have the breasts and the corset and the hair and the things to allure a man… And, I think Sondheim believes that kind of thing exists—like a spirit, a spirit of love, and it's so fearless. It's almost like a child's love. It's like hunger. It's unstoppable, and I think what you're meant to feel is that Fosca stands for that kind of unstoppable, forward-moving, unencumbered, unselfconscious, unedited, un-manipulative, just forward love. Of course, she is very manipulative in the way she presents it in some ways, but, in a way, she doesn't mean to be manipulative. She's just so direct. Clara is so full of allure. She's full of her little fantasies, and she's got the child and the husband. She wants her cake and eat it, too, a little bit. She wants to fit him into her little program… What Sondheim is essentially saying is there are loves that fit into these little negotiations and patterns and comfort zones. That's not really love. Real love is this kind of oceanic, forward-moving honesty.

Question: It's interesting, though, because Fosca doesn't pick someone unattractive. She's going for this beautiful guy…
Errico: That's true. I think you're supposed to feel that she's surrounded by all these butch guys that are really lowbrow Italian men, who are making a lot of fart jokes and go to whorehouses, and who are kind of brutes. "They hear drums, we hear music. Be my friend," she says. The first thing that ties them is that he sends this Rousseau novel to her, and he's a veracious reader. Giorgio is a good-looking guy and all that, but there should be—and I think Ryan really accomplishes this—as masculine and as good looking and as sexual as he is with me, he has an extremely fragile, soft, feminine, loner-ish quality. So, if allowed, she is drawn, yes, to a good-looking man, and it is important… Fosca, in a way, is teaching him that it's not physical beauty—either his or her lack of—that really matters. It's this other essence that they share. I don't know, this is her case in court, anyway. But, you're right, she's flawed. She probably is flawed, and the poem is flawed. It's a little corrupt. This is all a little weird! [Laughs.]


Sondheim sits in on a rehearsal.

Question: Has Sondheim been involved?
Errico: I would say he has been involved. He came to the rehearsal hall, and he watched us work. We did a run through for him. Then he came to the first and only sitzprobe, and he worked on the orchestrations right in front of us. He literally made changes with Jonathan Tunkick, who has done all new orchestrations for the show. So Jonathan had all his papers out, and all his assistants, and pens and things, and F# and F, and played again with the F, and played again with the F#, and Sondheim said, "I'll keep the F#, and if nobody likes it, we'll blame the clarinet player!" So he got the room laughing over little minutia like that. That was just delightful to watch happen in the room. So we watched that happen, and then he came to the very first preview, came to dress rehearsal, and then we did a live concert of the show—about six numbers from the show—on WQXR at the Green Space… It was televised, and Sondheim was on the panel, so he spoke all about how the play came about and how much he loves Italian cinema and this strange, strange movie, and he talked a lot about Fosca as a stalker, and she essentially is a stalker. I don't think he has a very pure way of talking about her, yet he seems madly in love with Fosca. He really seems to relate to her and respect her and kind of adores her insecurities and the depth of her feelings, so he says that Clara is the colder of the two because she follows rules. He called her colder. I don't feel that she's colder, but I guess it is colder in Sondheim's mind if you have any reasons not to love—if there's any reasons to control yourself in this play, you're in trouble. [Laughs.]


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