A ballet in three acts with 50 minutes playing time
Hieronimus Bosch’s mysterious images pose great puzzles to experts. They are ambiguous to interpret. In particular, the triptych picture “The Garden of Earthly Desires,” which depicts scenes that seem almost prophetic from the creation of the world to the apocalyptic end, is often the focus of expert criticism.
With a total duration of about 50 minutes, the American composer Leroy Osmon has created a musical work as monumental as this picture “The Garden of Earthly Desires“. The ballet consists of an “introduction”, three “acts” (each with four “scenes”) and an “interlude” before “Act III”. The titles for each act and scene come directly from certain sections of the Bosch painting. The inspiration for each section came from the painting as a whole and from the smallest images within the painting. The different styles of music are directly related to the images on the canvas: from the brutal to the sublime, from the abstract to the realistic. The ballet, like the painting, is a triptych (the three Acts of the Apostles) and the introduction (the third day of creation) is the upper panel of the painting. The music is a graphic representation of the Bosch painting and follows the same biblical narrative.
The composer Leroy Osmon lived and worked for several years in the Mexican state of Veracruz and was a personal friend of several members of the “Banda Sinfonice Del Gobierno Del Estado”. He composed many of the solo passages with a view to his friends. The role of the bass trombonist embodied the devil from Bosch’s vision of evil.
Act I represents the left panel and depicts Adam and Eve, the snake, various predators and the downfall of Eden.
Act II presents Noah (represented by the continuous playing of a two-part motif), lust, eroticism and the vulnerability of innocence, complete with a cast of naked figures and fantastic animals.
Act III, the right panel, has been described by art theorists as a “landscape of hell and portrays the tortoises of damnation” through a dance of perverted love and lust, death and vanity, ending with a hallucinating nightmare. Although historians and critics may have interpreted the painting as a didactic warning of the dangers of life’s damnation, the composer Leroy Osmon regarded it as a representation of a true degree of earthly joy; an erotic garden that the American writer Peter S. Beagle described as “a place of intoxication and complete freedom.
Osmond’s ballet presents a musical panorama of this lost paradise. Several of the composer’s works are represented in these compositions. When the composer received the commission for this ballet, Osmon worked on an homage to Ravel and the revisions of an early piano concerto. It was decided to include both works in the ballet with new material. There are three direct references to Ravel (the composer whom Osmon calls “the definition of my harmonic world”), as well as two complete movements of the Piano Concerto that went into the ballet. There are brief moments from other composers – including Ives, Grainger, Alwyn, Lloyd and Revueltas – who have inspired and guided Leroy Osmon harmonically and rhythmically for more than 50 years.