On July 27, there will be an innovative production of Philip Glass’ Akhnaten opera, with a specially produced fragrance.
It’s a wonderful concept and reminds me of a business bootcamp where they encouraged us to think of the emotion your business is trying to create, then identify another product, in a different industry, that creates the same emotion.
Bringing them together can be a powerful pairing and so I asked Diana & Alex about the story behind their wonderful idea.
How did you came up with the idea?
Diana Weston (Music Director): “Last November in Sydney I was thrilled to accompany my cousin Australian Dramatic Soprano Claire Primrose, a long-term resident of New York, in a recital of Wagner and Strauss lieder. Claire’s husband, Alex Moskvin, was also in Australia and we were discussing his work“.
Alex Moskvin: “I have extensive market research experience, particularly in the area of emotional and sensory branding. I was telling Diana about a new psychology of marketing I had been working on while employed in New York at global company, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). IFF is associated with the creation of some of the world’s most iconic fine fragrances, as well as many other categories of fragranced products, settings and applications including scent brand and ambient environment scents.
I had been researching and identifying scent as a major factor in the connection between experience, place, memory and emotion. This involved exploring how our sense of smell is directly hardwired into the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls our emotions. We know that scents can trigger memories and experiences long after they’re first experienced. In terms of marketing, scent is the last frontier of branding and is increasingly being utilised to enhance or deepen people’s experiences in many different ways from health and wellbeing to live theatre. Rachel Herz, a world-renowned expert on the psychology of smell, has even suggested that smell is so important that perhaps we wouldn’t even have the experience of emotion if we didn’t have a sense of smell!”
When Diana heard Alex mention the use of scent in theatre, she realised it could also be an additional sensory experience in an event like a classical concert which she was planning at the time.
IFF works through description, story-telling, personality and personal design for the product, so Diana told Alex the story of the opera and Akhenaten.
IFF has conducted extensive global research into the connections between scent ingredients with psychological states:
- physiological responses and sensory associations
- matching the scents to values and attributes
- feelings and moods
- settings and applications
- associations with colours, textures and sounds
The character of Akhenaten – a powerful figure who broke with well established traditions, deified the Sun as the one god Aten and himself as its only representative. He created a whole new city to support his people and religion.
During their discussion it became clearer that the magnitude of Akhenaten’s personality and obsession with image, parallels with today’s modern celebrities who also seek to define themselves with signature fragrances. Added to that, was a culture amongst the wealthy and royal personages of ancient Egypt that revered fragrance for its religious customs and personal wellbeing.
For them, adding scent to the concert seemed like a perfect fit and they felt positive the concept would work if only IFF would do the seemingly impossible and actually make the scent for them.
What kind of brief did you provide Chiaki Nomura?
Although the project was small and in Sydney, the connection of fellow New Yorker, composer Philip Glass, and the experimental combination of music and scent, we inspired IFF to support the project. Distinguished perfumer Chiaki Nomura agreed to create the scent. – says Alex
Chiaki received a written brief to create a contemporary, sensual scent (rather than a historical recreation) of the Akhnaten Story which they outlined. They also requested that it resonate equally with both sexes. The brief used key defining words to describe Akhenaten – masculine, feminine, warm, god-like, exotic, fecund, sensual, magnificent. Chiaki drew on her pre-existing knowledge of Glass’s music and affinity for ancient Egyptian culture.
Eight months later their fragrance was delivered.
… it’s divine! I’ve been wearing it and notice that it changes subtly throughout the day picking up different notes, so in essence, it really has captured the changing complexity of the human spirit. I can’t wait to see how it works during the performance. – says Diana
The fragrance will be infused during the performance and everyone in the audience will receive their own atomizer of Akhnaten Scent to take away and can remember the performance every time they use their atomizer.