Hidden from small

Top Notes: Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi Has a “Secret Passion” … Perfume!

January 31, 2017

It’s hard to believe that world-class conductors have time for anything but music.

Fabio Luisi

Take Fabio Luisi: He’s currently wrapping up his tenure as principal conductor at the Metropolitan Opera; he’s general music director at the Zurich Opera; he’s the incoming principal conductor of the Danish National Symphony; and next year he becomes music director of Florence Opera. Of course he’s also a highly sought-after guest conductor in the most famous concert halls all over the globe, including Verizon Hall, where he leads The Philadelphia Orchestra this weekend.

But how does Maestro Luisi relax when he’s not making music? He has what he once called a “secret passion:” He makes perfume.

“The fact is, I have always been very interested in fragrances and scents. When I was very young, my earliest impressions of people were how they smell! Then later, I started buying commercially made perfumes. I began teaching myself, by reading books on perfumery. The more I got involved through reading, and making contact with others who share my passion, the more I wanted to know about this, the more I wanted to experiment with mixing up substances.”

From buying a few ingredients online, Luisi progressed until he’d created mini-perfume labs in his homes in New York and Switzerland. He does every step of the process personally, by hand, down to filling the bottles and applying the labels.

His “secret passion” is a secret no longer: Fabio Luisi now sells his perfumes online. But he’s a modest maestro when talking about his creations.

“I’m basically self-taught, though I have had a teacher for two years now, a professional perfumer. I’m still not a professional; it’s a passion.” All the proceeds from Luisi’s perfume sales go the Luisi Academy for Music and Visual Arts in southern Italy.

How does perfumery fit into the life of an international music star?

“As a conductor, you are a reproducer: you have to understand what the composer wants, and try to translate that for the orchestra, and then for the audience. But the world of perfumery is much more creative, in my opinion. I aim to create scents that are not present in nature. You can go from a particular flower, and capture an atmosphere, a feeling, a mood, and translate this mood into a perfume. This is the creative part, and this is why I’m so passionate about it!”

Make no mistake; Luisi is just as passionate about music as he is about perfume, especially when it comes to conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra.

“It is a dream! It is fantastic! It’s such a generous orchestra; the musicians give so much. They have a special sound, a real European sound. I’m always happy if I know I’m going to conduct The Philadelphia Orchestra; it’s something special to me.”

(Fabio Luisi conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra February 2-4 at Verizon Hall. Note: André Watts, previously announced for these concerts, regrets that he will be unable to appear. Lise de la Salle will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, the originally scheduled work. The concert also features Weber’s Overture to Oberon, and Franck’s Symphony in D minor. For tickets or more information please click here.)

Photo by Barbara Luisi