Dell'arte e delle cipolle: Omaggio al Bronzino by Bruce Adolphe

World Premiere: 6 March 2010, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
European Premiere: 8 October 2010, Teatro Goldoni, Florence, Italy

Dell’arte e delle cipolle: Omaggio al Bronzino (Of Art and Onions: Homage to Bronzino) is a 30-minute musical work for madrigal choir, viola da gamba, harpsichord, and vibraphone composed by Bruce Adolphe with texts by the Italian Renaissance painter and poet Agnolo Bronzino and Francesco Petrarch.  It was commissioned by the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence to celebrate the unprecedented exhibitions in 2010 of Bronzino’s drawings in New York and of his paintings in Florence.
 
Renowned as one of the great painters of the Florentine Renaissance, Bronzino is less well known as a poet.  Bruce Adolphe chose two poems Bronzino wrote to Laura Battiferri, a poet herself, of whom Bronzino painted a now-famous portrait.  In the portrait Laura is holding a book of sonnets by Petrarch.  Adolphe set not only Bronzino’s poems to Laura Battiferri, but also part of the Petrarch sonnet that Laura holds in the portrait.
 
Petrarch’s own, much more famous, sonnets to another Laura, Laura de Noves, provided inspiration to Bronzino and also created a compelling context for his Laura poems, allowing for echoes of Petrarch.  Adolphe also chose two fragments of poems by Petrarch to complete the circle of references. 
 
In addition to these poems, Adolphe set a poem in which Bronzino complains of the downturn in painting during his lifetime, Deh no, Musa, deh no, fin ch’io favelle, and also part of an important comic poem La Cipolla di Bronzino Pittore (The Onion by Bronzino the Painter).   The setting of this poem, in which Bronzino compares poetry and painting to onions, matches the humorous tone of the poetry and uses musical techniques that closely mirror the imagery in the text.
 
The centerpiece of the work is an instrumental movement – for viola da gamba, harpsichord, and vibraphone – called Venus, which is a tribute to Bronzino’s well-known paintings of the goddess of love and beauty.
 
Adolphe ends the piece with a setting of a single line by Petrarch: “…Che quanto piace al mondo è breve sogno…” (whatever pleases in the world is a brief dream.)
 
The seven movements of the work are:
1. Salutar Pianta (text by Bronzino)
2. Il mio volta il consuma (text by Petrarch on painting by Bronzino)
3. Mentre ch'all'ombra d'un frondoso alloro (Madrigal poem by Bronzino)
4. Venus (for instruments only)
5. Deh, no, Musa (text by Bronzino)
6. La Cipolla di Bronzino Pittore (text by Bronzino)
7. Epilogue: Che quanto piace al mondo e breve sogno (one line by Petrarch)
 

Following are descriptions of the general moods of each movement:
 
Salutar Pianta -- strange combination of elegance, passion, and sorrow
Il mioi volta il consuma -- passionate, driven, intense
Mentre ch'all'ombra d'un frondoso alloro -- pastoral, mysterious, introverted, yearning
Venus -- a dance, dreamy, happy,
Deh, no Musa -- angry, passionate, disturbed
La Cipolla di Bronzino Pittore -- comic, philosophical, even a bit silly
Epilogue: Che quanto piace al mondo e breve sogno -- introverted, delicate, serioso, philosophical
 
 
Bruce Adolphe's music has been performed worldwide by artists including Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Brentano Quartet, the Miami Quartet, and over 60 symphony orchestras. A recording of his music on Naxos received a Grammy in 2005. Founder and director of the Meet the Music family concerts at The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Mr. Adolphe has also been their resident lecturer since 1992, as well as a commentator on Live From Lincoln Center and a lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The author of three books on music, he has taught at Yale, Juilliard, and New York University.  Since 2003, he performs his Piano Puzzlers weekly on public radio’s Performance Today.  With Julian Fifer, he is cofounder and director of The Learning Maestros education company.  In 2009, Mr Adolphe’s chamber opera Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson, libretto by Carolivia Herron, was premiered by the Washington National Opera and the Washington Performing Arts Society, and Yo-Yo Ma performed the premiere of Bruce’s Self Comes to Mind, a collaboration with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  Mr Adolphe was recently appointed composer-in-residence at the Brain and Creativity Institute in Los Angeles.