A French fragrance designer who has created perfumes for Clinique, Estée Lauder, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, has created 23 new fragrances for an opera that will feature an orchestrated sequence of smells. Composers Valgeir Sigurdsson and Nico Muhly are creating music based on the scents and a libretto by Stewart Matthew. It will open at the Guggenheim at the end of this month.
While I don’t know if this idea has ever been put into practice before, I do know of at least one person who came up with it 70 years ago: Walt Disney.
Disney had originally wanted to include Debussy’s prelude “Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir” in Fantasia back in 1940. Said Disney, “I have always wanted to put perfume in theaters, have wanted to do it for years . . . Get a good flower smell. There you’ve got something . . . You could get them to name a special perfume for this–create a perfume–you could get write-ups in the papers . . . It’s a hot idea!”