16 ottobre 2009
Interview with Lorenzo Villoresi (with French translation)
It's ten o'clock and I’m very excited. I have the chance to meet an artist awarded with the Prix Coty, the most prestigious prize in perfumery, which is the equivalent of an Oscar Prize, created to celebrate the winner artist’s career as well as his most recent creations, with a glass trophy especially designed by Lalique (in the picture, the 2006 award ceremony). Lorenzo Villoresi is the only Italian composer to have succeeded so far, and the distance between me (a perfume lover) and him (the award-winning artist) is abysmal, which is why I go head over heels revealing immediately how much I admire his work. Is he aware that his creations excite people -and thus me- and how does he feel when someone says "your scents fill my life with emotions"?
He tells me that each day he receives emails, phone calls and letters from people who want to say something about his fragrances: "In the evening I get a note with all the communications received during the day: it’s nice to read comments and emotions. Sometimes writers are parents of children who participated in olfaction laboratories I organize for schoolchildren, who write to thank me for the experience. I love working with children, they have fewer mental superstructures than adults, they thrill more easily. They come in a row, well ordered, silent, waiting for the "lesson" to listen, but then I leave them free to sniff and experience, with parents and teachers out of the way for a while, soon they get excited, happy... usually they end up crying they don’t want to go away!" and he adds a big laugh. The thing that strikes me immediately is Mr. Villoresi looks into my eyes directly as he speaks, without the slightest trace of self-conceit. He’s not shy, nor he’s assuming. His whole person expresses a well balanced wisdom, gained over time. You can feel it. He seems to be accustomed to looking at situations as they are, with a mixture of wisdom/lightness/curiosity that allows him to relate without showing defense or judgement. On the other hand he’s a little older than most of the composers I've met so far (except for Vero, who shares the same charming self-awareness). Sooner or later I’ll take time to understand how the personal maturity given by a longer life, affects the fragrances that artists create.
About his projects, he tells me about his most recent one: the translation of the “Treaty on smells” by Theophrastus, a Greek document dating 2200 years that Giuseppe Squillace has finally translated into Italian, and of which he wrote the preface.
I ask him what his first fragrant memory: “One of my earliest smells of tomato leaves. When I was a kid I used to spend time in a garden, here in Tuscany, immersed in the scents of plants, and that smell is one of the first I remember."
What inspires his work? "What inspires me is always linked to other places, mythical figures, visions unrelated to “here and now" or to reality. Mostly are timeless, non-historical situations. And it's always coming to me abruptly".
What comes immediately to my mind are descriptions of olfactory imaginary places and historical periods, like Dilmun (The Paradise for ancient Mesopotamian populations), Teint de Neige (the rarefied atmosphere of the Belle Epoque) and Alamut, my favorite, a blend of narcissus, tuberose, ylang ylang, labdanum, sandalwood, patchouli, benjoin. The whole is well melted together, as dissolved slowly in a water bath. The result is all softness and sensuality, no sharp edges or bursts of pride: a scent as a deliberate gesture of submission. The fascinating aspect is that powerful notes which might sting or yell, here submit on their own initiative, as subjugated by a pleasure too intense to be countered, leaving no alternative but to, precisely, submit. Someone may not understand Alamut, because in my opinion it’s not the usual stuff orientals are made of. It's true, it’s an Oriental scent, but those expecting something like Shalimar, Baghari, Opium, or the various Ambers (Etro, Maitre Parfumeur etc.) will find a
completely different atmosphere here. Where Shalimar is a declaration of love, Baghari of style, Opium a hoarse scream, Alamut is an obscene word whispered softly in your ear, which allows you neither to blush, nor turn away. Enchanting.
How do you compose your fragrances? "I try to create a simple structure, a heart which develops the topic I’ve in mind; I work on this very long, and then I slowly build the entire fragrance around this heart. Or if I'm thinking about something with many different facets, I stat exploring those I’m interested in, and only after I dedicate myself to the rest. Maybe it helps if I explain it with colors. For example, if I'm drawing a green lawn, I ask myself: “how many shades of green should I perceive here? How can I build the picture to make all of them stand out clearly? Sometimes even dis-harmony may result in a very interesting fragrance, but I always prefer to harmonize rather than contrast.
When can a scent be described as “beautiful”? "When it causes emotional stress. Perfumes that I really loved were Coty’s Ambre Antique, an amber mixed with citrus, E. Roudnitska’s Eau de Rochas, which suggested the idea of purity. There perfumes are still very special to me."
Then we extend the discussion to perfumery in wider terms: "The disaster of contemporary perfume is the lack of freedom with which composers are forced to work, and this lack of freedom originates in a lack of courage of companies, which instead of investing in innovative and creative fragrances, prefer to invest in copies of other copies. The reason is that companies must to count on a certain amount of annual revenue, and to ensure that customers will buy their products the best method is to be trendy. So the work of composers ends in similar, look-alike clones; they all contain the same specialties (molecules), created by multinationals. The use of the same specialty reduces creativity and originality in fragrances, standardizing and flattening the olfactory landscape. Moreover, this "dates" fragrances, namely incorporates them a specific period, in a limited time. They don’t realize that perfume is artwork!"
I ask him what he thinks of the "natural" trend, spreading in recent years: "Naturalness? But the beauty of a work of art shouldn’t depend on the tool the artist used to create it! God forbid that artists weren’t allowed to use any tools to compose their visions. "
And now the question that everyone asked me to ask him: When will the Academy be ready? "The academy will be a meeting place for training and experimentation on the themes of scent; its opening has been delayed for long due to a variety of reasons, but next spring the inauguration will take place." And I cannot wait.
What do you like doing, when not working? “I like music, I sing and play an instrument. And cooking! Smell and taste are complementary senses, many great perfumers of the past were also excellent cooks, and some of our contemporaries (I think of Maurice Maurin but experiments in this direction were already made in the 70s) have even opened restaurants!
When I thought of Lorenzo Villoresi I didn’t imagine someone so charming and direct, I was surprised and absolutely conquered by his charm. Mr. Villoresi thank you once again for all the time you spent with me, I really hope there might be a second chance!
FRENCH TRANSLATION (THANKS TO ANNAMARIA/NYNIVE FOR THE TRANSLATION!)Il est encore la nuit quand nous montons sur le train que nous amenera à Florence: à 9 h. nous attend un rendez-vous avec Lorenzo Villoresi.
Nous esquivons la longue cohue de l'enregistration presse, les mots Interwiew avec Lorenzo nous ouvrent en avance les portes de Fragranze, dans cet éclatant matin d'un septembre en Toscane. Il arrive, décontracté comme pour une rencontre entre amis à la terrasse d'un café. C'est son charme, un homme si sûr de soi qu'il n'a pas besoin de l'étaler.
Son premier souvenir olfactif: le potager du grand-père, les feuilles de tomates...
Son premier souvenir-parfum: Eau de Rochas du grand Roudnitzka, il lui porte une vraie admiration, on le sent par les mots dont il en parle.
Il est touché par l'appréciation des enfants qui visitent son laboratoire olfactif créé pour les écoles:
"Ils ont moins de préjugés olfactifs que leurs parents, ils s'émouvent par les odeurs, les parfums, les matières..."
Il est un homme serein et sage, qui étale pas sa profonde culture et il te fait pas la leçon, très self-conscious.
Son dernier projet qu'il vient d'accomplir est la traduction italienne de Le traité des odeurs de Théophraste dont il a écrit la préface.
Il nour explique qu'il s'inspire à visions intemporelles, au delà de l'éspace, aux lieux des mythes, pas du tout contemporaines.
Le début de ses créations est le coeur du parfum, une simple charpente de ce qu'il veut evoquer, le concept donc, qu'il enrobe ensuite, petit à petit, avec les composant qui exaltent l' idée originale.
Pour lui un BEAU parfum est un odeur qui déchaine une émotion, et il cite Ambre Antique Coty et encore Eau de Rochas.
Il déplore l'absence de courage des entreprises qui investent pas dans la sperimentation et se renferment dans la création de copies des copies, qui leur assurent des revenus sans problèmes, en limitant la créativité des compositeurs en l'obligeant à utiliser les molécules-mode des multinationales-surtout pas chères.
La tendance au naturel: Pas d'accord, il dit qu'une oeuvre d'art ne depend pas de la matière, huile, pastel ou acrilique, mais le chef d'oeuvre est donné par la main qui le crée.
Dans le prochaine printemps, 2010, il souhaite ouvrir l'Accademia del profumo, comme éspace de rencontre, formation et experimentation.
"J' aime la musique, je chante et joue un instrument, et la cuisine parce que je pense que le goût et l'odorat sont complementaires"