A sweet Athenian lady is in love
With a disdainful youth: anoint his eyes;
But do it when the next thing he espies
May be the lady . . .
The elixir of love can drive us to actions that are heroic or consummately foolish. A person who is driven by passion may find that it consumes everything else.Some people do not easily feel passion. Passion is risky, and so some people avoid it. Some religions so advise. Ours does not. We believe that living a fulfilling and productive life requires us to take risks.
We are wise, of course, if we put passion in its place and in its perspective, and use it for the good. By living in a supportive community and remaining mindful of our responsibilities in relationship to others, and ourselves, we can channel our passions in positive directions so they serve the good. We can also live a love-filled life.
- Carol Lansing, Passion and Order: Restraint of Grief in the Medieval Italian Communes (Cornell University Press, 2007).
- William R. Jankowiak, Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? (Columbia University Press, 1995).
- Jane Wood, Passion and Pathology in Victorian Fiction (Oxford University Press, 2001).
- Judith Farr, The Passion of Emily Dickinson (Harvard University Press, 1992).
- Karen Vintges, Philosophy as Passion: The Thinking of Simone de Beauvoir (Indiana University Press, 1996).
- Felicity A. Nussbaum, Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century Narratives (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).
- Carolyn Burke, No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011), on the singer who “poured her life’s passion into her music.”
- Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Van Gogh: The Life (Random House, 2011): Vincent van Gogh’s intensely passionate inner life jumps off the canvas into the consciousness of any astute observer of his paintings, and the reader of his letters. Rich in color and texture, his paintings practically overload the senses: such seems to have been the artist’s experience of life. “ . . . it’s better that we feel something for each other rather than behave like corpses towards one another, the more so because as long as one has no real right to be called a corpse by being legally dead, it smacks of hypocrisy or at least childishness to pose as such. Childish in the manner of a young man of 14 years who thinks that his dignity and social standing actually oblige him to wear a top hat. The hours we spent together in this way have at least assured us that we’re both still in the land of the living. When I saw you again and took a walk with you, I had the same feeling I used to have more than I do now, as though life were something good and precious that one should cherish, and I felt more cheerful and alive than I had been for a long time, because in spite of myself life has gradually become or has seemed much less precious to me, much more unimportant and indifferent. When one lives with others and is bound by a feeling of affection one is aware that one has a reason for being, that one might not be entirely worthless and superfluous but perhaps good for one thing or another, considering that we need one another and are making the same journey as travelling companions.”
Technical and Analytical Readings
- Richard S. Lazarus and Bernice N. Lazarus, Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions (Oxford University Press, 1994).
- Virginia Burrus, Toward a Theology of Eros: Transfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline (Fordham University Press, 2006).
- Niklas Luhman, Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy (Stanford University Press, 1998).
- Salvador Dali, Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Sentiment of Love (1940)
- Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love) (1927)
- Konstantin Simov, A Youth on His Knees in Front of a Lady (1916)
- Gustav Klimt, Love (1895)
- Paul Cezanne, Bacchanalia. The Battle of Love (1880)
- Frida Kahlo, A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love) (1935)
The glance of women resembles certain combinations of wheels, which are tranquil in appearance yet formidable. You pass close to them every day, peaceably and with impunity, and without a suspicion of anything. A moment arrives when you forget that the thing is there. You go and come, dream, speak, laugh. All at once you feel yourself clutched; all is over. The wheels hold you fast, the glance has ensnared you. It has caught you, no matter where or how, by some portion of your thought which was fluttering loose, by some distraction which had attacked you. You are lost. The whole of you passes into it. A chain of mysterious forces takes possession of you. You struggle in vain; no more human succor is possible. You go on falling from gearing to gearing, from agony to agony, from torture to torture, you, your mind, your fortune, your future, your soul; and, according to whether you are in the power of a wicked creature, or of a noble heart, you will not escape from this terrifying machine otherwise than disfigured with shame, or transfigured by passion. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume III – Marius; Book Sixth – The Conjunction of Two Stars, Chapter VI, Taken Prisoner.]
Novels and stories:
- Brian Douthit and David Robertson, eds., Eyes of the Poet: Love and Passion in Lasting Splendor (Lulu Press, 2006).
- Nicole Krauss, Great House (W.W. Norton & Company, 2010) (emotional intensity).
- William Kennedy, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes (Viking, 2011): “a polyrhythmic contemplation of time and its effects on passion set in three different eras . . .”
- Martin Walser, A Man In Love: A Novel (Arcade, 2019): “ . . . a version of . . . of the sorrowful young artist Werther’s unrequited infatuation with a young woman called Lotte.”
- Akil Kumarasamy, Meet Us by the Roaring Sea: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2022): “Following a cohort of young female medical students in the late 1990s, this narrative-within-a-narrative becomes our secret hatch door into the vortex of girlhood, its 'walls held together by the spit of longing.'”
Film and Stage
Bizet’s Carmen is the face of unbridled passion.
- Carmen Jones, a film adaptation
- Carmen with Elena Garanca
- Carmen with Anna Caterina Antonacci
- Carmen with Agnes Baltsa
- Carmen with Julia Migenes
- Carmen with Nadia Krasteva
- Carmen with Béatrice Uria-Monzon
- Carmen with Anita Rachvelishvili
- Carmen with Marija Jokovic
Other films about passion:
- Red: a young woman and a despondent retired judge encounter each other through unhappy chance but then the young woman’s compassion produces “spiritual kinship and mutual redemption” as the stage is set for the young woman to achieve the passion that eluded the older man
- Children of Paradise(Les Enfants du Paradis), about a woman and a man who cannot forget each other.
- Gate of Hell: “the story of a thirteenth century warrior—a handsome and proud samurai—who falls in love with a dainty Japanese lady whom he aids and saves during a palace revolt and later requests in marriage, only to learn that she already is wed. Burning with a mad desire for her, he besieges her in her happy married state and causes her such shame and sorrow that she commits suicide” – the film illustrates the difference between Love and passion
- Notorious: not love, merely the passion of amore
- The Passion of Anna: Anna wears her passion most obviously of the characters but this is a film about the passions of many: “the ability to live with the contradictions of life and bear them without resignation”
- Swept Away: a man and a woman escalate a potentially lethal power struggle
- Woman of the Year: the attraction between the characters overpowers their differences, as did the mutual attraction of the film’s co-stars Tracy and Hepburn
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Georges Bizet’s Carmen (1875) is the quintessential opera of hot-blooded romance. The male protagonist’s mother advises him to choose a nice girl from the village but of course, he plunges headlong into the abyss with the hot-headed seductress. “Bizet’s Carmen has everything you want from an opera: high drama, passionate characters, a love story.” “Carmen musically portrays gypsy life with its exotic depictions and chromatic elements. The plot line, tonality, and character representation reflect the power struggle and political tension of nineteenth-century France. The opera also highlights the struggle between the dominant male figure and the femme fatale.” “The vehicle for Bizet's realization of his ideals turned out to be a 1845 novella by Prosper Mérimée, Prosper Merimee Prosper Mérimée narrated by a French archeologist in Andalusia to whom Don José Navarro, a notorious brigand awaiting his execution, relates the tale of his fatal encounter with the gypsy Carmencita.” Video-recorded performances include those featuring Antonacci & Kaufman, with Pappano in 2008; and Migenes-Johnson & Domingo. Top audio-only-recorded performances feature Michel and Jobin, with Cluytens in 1950; de Los Angeles and Gedda, with Beecham in 1957; Price & Corelli, with Karajan, in 1963; Verrett and Lance, with Prêtre in 1967; Troyanos and Domingo, with Solti, in 1975; Berganza and Domingo, with Abbado, in 1978; and Gheorghiu and Alagna, with Plasson, in 2003.
Manuel de Falla, El Amor Brujo (Love the Magician, or the Bewitched Love) (1915) (approx. 34-40 minutes), “is a ballet-pantomime in one act based on a story concerned with love, death, exorcism, and release. The story concerns two gypsies, the sensual Candela and the handsome Carmelo.” “The plot is disarmingly simple – a gypsy is possessed by the ghost of her faithless former lover until her new suitor enlists a beautiful friend to entice it away. Every one of the thirteen scenes evokes a diverse mood that is seamlessly integrated into a moving tapestry of enthralling but restrained human feeling.” “Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo, or Love, the Magician, is a ballet but not in the traditional sense. It uses flamenco steps instead of classical ballet, contains songs for a mezzo-soprano soloist, and the original version included dialogue which was later removed.” Top performances of the ballet version feature dancers Antonio Gades in 1967; and Antonio Gades and Christine Hoyos in 1986. Top performances of the orchestral version are conducted by Reiner in 1946, Ansermet in 1955, Argenta in 1957, Stokowski in 1960, Stokowski in 1964, Hessier in 2006, and Heras-Casado in 2019.
Two works by Falla on “love” and jealousy, one light-hearted [El Sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) (1919)], the other darker [Noches en los Jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain) for piano & orchestra, G 49 (1916)]
- Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata” (1805)
- Fauré, La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61 (1894)
- Falla, El Amor Brujo (Love the Magician, or The Bewitched Love) (1915)
- Two works by Falla on “love” and jealousy, one light-hearted [El Sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) (1919)], the other darker [Noches en los Jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain) for piano & orchestra, G 49 (1916)]
- Dvořák, Othello Overture, Op. 93, B 174 (1892)
- Fry, The Breaking Heart
- Arnold Bax, Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra (1918) (approx. 46’): “Few musical works brood so intensively over so little material, and its moments of vision emerge out of an almost obsessive uniformity of mood which can make it as exhausting an experience for the listener as for the soloist, scarcely rested during the work’s fifty minutes’ course. The matter, of course, is romantic love—or, depending on the armour-plating of your sympathies, sexual infatuation. Reflexive, subjective and personal, it is at the very least a remarkably public declaration of a private passion.”
- Foote, 4 Character Pieces after the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyan, Op. 48 (1900)
- Händel, Aminta e Fillide (Amyntas and Phyllis), HWV 83
- Gernsheim, Introduction & Allegro appassionato, Op. 38
- Vasks, Musica Appassionata
- Messager, Passionnément (1926), an operetta involving passions for alcohol and amore – Blunier has conducte an excellent performance.
Indian and Pakistani ghazals:
- Sung by Jagjit Singh
- Jagjit Singh live at Sydney Opera House
- Sung by Gulam Ali
- Sung by Mirza Ghalib
- Sung by Mehdi Hassan
- Sung by Chitra Singh
- Sung by Iqbal Bano
- John Henry Crawford, “Corazón”: Crawford’s cello pairs mainly with guitar and piano.
- Geoff Eales, “Love Sacred & Profane” (2022), is “a genre-busting tour-de-force that reflects on the enigma of love with all its complications and contradictions.” “You have to love Geoff Eales, not simply for his fabulous keys and compositional skills but the utter passion of his vision. Love Sacred and Profane is his masterwork, referencing every thing from Debussy to Purim-era Return to Forever, showtime balladry to the works of another musical visionary, Hildegard von Bingen, the Sybil of the Rhine.”
- Ziya Tabassian, Hossein Omoumi & Kiya Tabassian (Iranian tombak, ney & setar), “Ateş-i Aşk” (Fire of Love)
- Electrocutango & Sverre Indris Joner, “Contrastes” (2021) (52’) highlights the sensual-sexual tension at the heart of the tango. These tracks sharpen the innate edge of the tango.
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
[Pablo Neruda, “If You Forget Me”]
- Pablo Neruda, “I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You”
- Pablo Neruda, “In the wave-strike over unquiet stones”
- Pablo Neruda, “Absence”
- Pablo Neruda, “Drunk as Drunk”
- Pablo Neruda, “In my sky at twilight”
- Edgar Allan Poe, “Annabel Lee”
- James Joyce, “Of That So Sweet Imprisonment”