2021 Fragrant secrets / Invisibile fragranze

Barbara Pia Jenič:


A walk through the history of scents

What impact does scent have on our daily lives? What is perfume and what is its historical journey to today?Scents and perfumes date back to Mesopotamia and Egypt, more than 5000 years ago, then spread to Asia, ancient Greece and Rome, and flourished in the 20th century. Scent plays many roles: it is the invisible force of religious and spiritual rituals, the invisible friend, the opener of emotions, memory, the creator of atmospheres. The script is based on research into the history of perfumes and scents in everyday life, from antiquity to the 21st century. Although olfactory perception is the least researched of all the sensory modalities, many books and scholarly articles have been published worldwide, allowing the author, Barbara Pia Jenič, to create a story with documentary value.

The protagonist, Tom, is searching for the right scent to stir the soul and win the affection of his chosen one, Violeta. To achieve his goal, he also peeks into history with the help of artificial intelligence and the internet. We learn about the use of scents from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Ancient Greece to Rome. We also trace scents back to the Dark Ages and to the court of Louis XIV, XV and XVI. They are followed by Napoleon Bonaparte, who is said to have consumed as many as 60 bottles of cologne a month.

Screenplay, direction, set design, lighting and scent design Barbara Pia Jenič

Dramaturgical consultant Ana Obreza

Costumes Alan Hranitelj

Sound and music Peter Penko

Vocals Zala Hodnik

Harpsichord Drejc Pogačnik

Choreography Branko Potočan

Proofreading: Lara Jerkovič AGRFT

Costume designer assistant Ana Janc

Video: Barbara Pia Jenič, Diego Sedmak



Tomaž Toporišič: On the Trail of Smell, which reveals the mysteries of scent through a special sensory experience

Sensorial forms of theatre open up to the viewer liminal areas of perception that are unfamiliar, but at the same time captivating and highly inspiring. If the contemporary theatre theorist Susan Broadhurst describes this type of art as a fertile chaos and a fertile nothing, a storehouse of possibilities, we understand this ourselves as a theatrical experience that this time, through the phenomenon of the sense of smell, produces new, liminal entities that are neither here nor there, caught between positions, emphasizing the corporeal and the chthonic, experimenting. If we apply these characteristics of the performances to the body of sensorial theatre, we can conclude that the performance you are about to see or have seen and smelled represents a type of theatrical seduction that has become something of a phenomenon in Slovenia in the last decades, with Enrique Vargas, and later especially with Barbara Pia Jenič, which can be defined and, as spectators, felt with different senses as a living art, different from classical theatre and, as Barbara notes, as “a sensorial language that tends to involve communication with the visitor on other sensory levels besides sight (if it is already present). Visual communication through images (symbols, archetypal images) plays a similar role in Sensorium as audio communication through words.”

If Barbara Pie Jenič’s Sensorial Theatre was created as a continuation of the method of the magician of this theatre, the Colombian director Enrique Vargas and his Teatro de los Sentidos, a joint theatre company based in Barcelona, it has evolved into a theatre over the last two decades, a theatre that offers audiences incredible, unframed, authentic perception and pleasures, a theatre that, in a special, inimitable experience for both the audience and the performers, causes a change in their perception and understanding of reality, of themselves and of others. It counts on triggering a change in the spectator’s perception of reality, which takes place through the aesthetics of the senses. But this aestheticised language also speaks of the here and now, of our present looking back at the past. Thus, the fragrant gardens of the Trieste performance by Barbara Pie Jenič, the actors and other creators, can cause small miracles that make us perceive the big stage of the theatre differently than usual. With a wider range of senses, awakening special emotional and sensorial memories and feelings.


Ana Obreza: About the play Fragrant Secrets

Every time has its own smell, its own spirit; and also its own spirit. In the performance Scented Secrets, it is embodied in Viki, the ever-present companion of the course of history and the indomitable collector of stories. She is as at home in the perfumed court of Louis XIV as she is in the loathsome pest-hole where the plague scythes; the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars are as familiar to her as the athletic fields of Rome. She was a silent witness to lovers of mythological proportions, Marc Antony and Cleopatra – and she is a witness to Tom and Violet, right here, right now.

Tom and Violet are children of their time, of a modernity filled with technological gadgets that allow fast, instant communication and access to an almost inexhaustible supply of data and information. By browsing the freely accessible online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, they are learning about the many interesting facts related to the historical significance of fragrances and the development of perfume making. The mysterious mystique of the past and their playful imagination open the door wide for them to enter into the very heart of a painting conjured up from the past and to experience for themselves – and with their own noses – the ghosts of days gone by.

The performance Fragrant Secrets is a montage of documentary illustrations, linked together by glimpses of the coming together of two young people who are just “groping” and “smelling” each other to really get to know each other. The performance brings to life on stage well-known historical facts, which are inevitably presented as we imagine them from the perspective of the present. The direct use of period-specific scents blurs the distinction between stage and audience – actors and spectators breathe the same scented air, enjoy the same spirit, dive into the same fragrance pool.

If Fragrant Secrets were a perfume, its ingredients would be: historicity, romanticism, sensoriality, documentary, educational… the other ingredients remain the elusive mystery of scent, to be experienced by each spectator of the performance.


Technical team

Head of performance and props Sonja Kerstein

Technical Manager Peter Furlan

Sound and video master Diego Sedmak

Lighting Designer Peter Korošic

Stage Master Giorgio Zahar

Stage workers Dejan Mahne, Škabar Marko

Wardrobe Silva Gregorčič

Translator and subtitler Tanja Sternad

Whisperer Barbara Gropajc


Video material: Shutterstock, Fotocommunity.de (spacecowboy74)

Co-production: SSG Trst, Senzorium Zavod, UL AGRFT

Excerpts from expert reviews

“The whole performance was a special olfactory experience that enriched the set, the costumes and the acting. /…/ The ocular reality is merged with a new sensory element, namely the smells, which play a major role in every single historical and contemporary scene. The scents evoke the atmosphere of each historical period and accompany the space and time along with the set and costumes. Smell becomes a new way of communication between the actors and the audience, through a visual and auditory channel.”

A journey through the history of smells, Erika Labiani, 13 December 2021


“Fragrant Secrets, a sensory performance that you look at or smell, represents a new type of theatrical seduction, which comes to the Slovenian space with Barbara Pia Jenič and becomes an art that we feel on different levels. The performance causes a kind of tiny miracles that help us to perceive the stage of the theatre in a different and broader way than otherwise. With a wider range of senses, emotional and sensory memories and feelings are awakened in us during the performance. /…/ Scented Secrets is a surprising, historical, romantic, sensory, documentary and meticulously crafted performance where actors and audience breathe the same scented air, enjoy the same spirit and dive in the same scented pool. It is truly worth seeing!” The Unfathomable Mystery of Scent, Tanisa Pipan 13 December 2021


“History, romance and documentary intertwine to form a coherent whole, and it is the relationship with the viewer that gives the show its special fragrance. If Scented Secrets were a perfume, it would be different, incomparable for each viewer.” Smelly and scented Experience, Helena Štoka 13 December 2021


“The work Fragrant Secrets shows the evolution of the perception of smells throughout history – the sensory theatre approach ensures a feeling of being overwhelmed by what is happening on stage. The drama relates smell to the understanding of the body, cleanliness and luxury, smell is presented as something personal, almost intimate. /…/ Barbara Pie Jenič’s text is vivid: on stage we hear the ethereal names of a wide variety of scents that have inspired people throughout history /…/ It is documentary theatre based on real facts from history and presented in the form of a stage performance.

Ivana Zajc, You can tell who you are with fragrance, 12 November 2021


Press review links

2021 A journey through the history of smells, Erika Labiani, Sigledal critique 13 December

2021 The Unfathomable Mystery of Smell, Tanisa Pipan, Sigledal critique 13 December

2021 The Fragrant and smelly Experience, Helena Štoka, Sigledal critique 13 December

2021 Documentary Fragrant Secrets, Primorski dnevnik, 25. oktober

2021 In SSG Trst premiere of the sensorial play Fragrant secrets, Sigledal, 24. oktober

2021 The history of smells in the theatre, RAI TV, IT, 23. oktober

2021 Premiere of the sensorial play Fragrant Secrets at the Slovenian Teatro stabile Trieste, STA, 22. oktober

2021 Fragrant secrets, a special experience, Primorski dnevnik, 22. oktober

2021 A round of applause for Fragrant Secrets, FB SSG Trst, 22.oktober

2021 Public will really breathe with the actors and enjoy fragrant secrets, Primorske novice Kultura, 22. oktober

2021 Fragrant secrets, TV Koper Capodistria FB, 22. oktober

2021 A sensorial performance, that guides you through the history of smells, MMC RTV SLO, 22. oktober

2021 From Nero to Napoleon, with all the senses, Primorske novice, 20. oktober

2021 A walk throught the history of scents, Primorske novice, 20. oktober

2021 Theatre through smells, RAI, TDD Furlanija Julijska krajina, 19. oktober

2021 La storia sensoriale dei profumi,Televisione Telequattro Italia, 19. oktober