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Conductor Fabio Luisi's Passion for...Perfume?

Conductor Fabio Luisi displaying some of his fragrances

A leading contemporary conductor explores both music, and—in his free time—fragrances.  As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, Fabio Luisi sees many connections between music and perfume.

Radio Script: 

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, The Philadelphia Orchestra

Fabio Luisi

Susan Lewis:  Tchaikovsky said his sixth symphony had a program, but it should remain an enigma.   Conductor Fabio Luisi says this is good.

Fabio Luisi:  Not having the program for the symphony, you can imagine whatever you want, and just  feel with the feelings, with the emotions the symphony is projecting to you.

SL:  Luisi, when not conducting opera and orchestral works – has a hobby developing perfumes, which also embody a bit of mystery.

FL:  Smells work a little bit like music because they bypass the intellect. They go directly to a part of the brain that is responsible for emotions. So, you smell something and one emotion or one remembering pops up. And with music, it is the same. 

SL: He uses colors to describe his perfumes, and the music he performs, including Tchaikovsky’ssixth symphony. 

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6

FL: I see a lot of orange and green in the first movement. I see red and black in the third movement.  And I see a lot of brown and probably dark blue in the last movement.

SL:  Fabio Luisi is currently music director of the Zurich Opera and principal conductor of the  Danish National Symphony.  He was principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera from 2011 to 2017.  His perfume company has headquarters in Switzerland and New York.

Conductor Fabio Luisi talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about how creating fragrances is like music, and how it's not.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.