Cosy Carmen – 1875 Carmen Bizet Histoires de Parfums.

Carmen is one of the most performed operas in modern times.

You make a collection like the Opera Collection by Histoires de Parfums, and dedicate a perfume to the femme fatale, I have to look at it from the perspective of characterisation. And I will.

The beginning is dazzling; a stage entrance. The citrus is radiant and the ginger has real bite. Little by little the luminous saffron adds to the overall feeling of stage lights so bold they would be worthy of only Carmen herself. But from here on I lose the thread of the compositional inspiration.

Matisse-Katia in yellow dress More this...

Matisse-Katia in yellow dress
More this…

 

The white flowers could have been beguiling and alluring, the mix of sandalwood a husky come-hither, and the wooden back drop with patch and incense the low register of the mezzo singing, tough and raspy. It is none of all that.

 

To me the main actors are a gorgeous smooth sandalwood and that luminous saffron note which turns soft and milky after the initial blaze, and perhaps even remind me a bit of tea. The white flowers cuddle up to the sandalwood and become all doe eyed, rather than femme fatalesque. The woods and patchouli gives off a tiny bit of earthiness, but still it’s more a picnic in the park sort (the sandalwood and saffron still at large) than gipsies and smugglers caves. The very dry-down is a gauzy honeyed amber, rendering the whole composition yellow from lemo cadmium ending in gold umbra.

 

Than this. (Carmen)

Than this.
(Carmen)

Now, I actually think it’s fantastic that 1875- Carmen by Gerald Ghislain is not a truism. It’s not showing up wearing a black curled wig, red rose in hair and a dotted black flamenco dress with cleavage down to the toes smelling of tobacco and sex. Maybe I’m weird like that, but I’m weary of that old-fashioned interpretation of Carmen both on stage and in anyone looking to explore Carmen through other media*. But what I don’t quite get is exactly what this is supposed to signal. She might also be (according to Carmen-the perfume) vulnerable, charming, full of light and energy, but I would actually call both heart and dry down cosy. And I must admit I never saw that coming; a cosy Carmen?

 

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Gorgeous bottle

Don’t get me wrong I like Carmen- the fragrance a lot; it’s a beautiful, warming, cosy, bright yellow perfume in the style of classic french perfumery that I would happily wear during all the cold months to come. I love saffron, and this rendition is different from the other saffron fragrances out there. The closest comparisons would be the Dries van Noten/ Malle which is way more unashamedly cuddly, double cream all fluffed up, and I’d say Santal Carmin is also both a bit cuddlier and has a more contemporary feel. It is with superb skill that GG has blended the saffron from the headstrong opening scene with the ginger and artemisia into the mix of sandalwood-softness of the second act. Bravo.

 

But, and there is a but, from the man who created Tubereuse 1-3, Edition rare (Petroleum, Ambrarem), 1740 Marquis de sade, 1889 Moulin Rouge etc. I did expect a gutsier Carmen. To a certain extend I do get that you can’t sell extremely daring fragrances at this price**; they have to please so the people with the real cash can buy. And that said, I can’t help but feel that the real ‘Carmen’ perfume was already created, and by no other than Gerald Ghislain himself. It’s called Tuberose Animale, and it’s not a cliché; it’s bloody grrrreat!???????????????????????????????

 

*No other opera has so consistently been denied a modernisation in terms of directing and interpretation. Stubbornly, directors again and again want the same dark curled man-eater coming out of the 1870s tobacco factory, and the same Michaela (José’s fiancé) to wear a blond wig, with Heidi- braids and a lavender coloured dress. Like with everything else, if there’s no surprise ever, then why go at all, why not just put on the cd? (Rant over)

** Yes, the price is joining in the recent Roja-trend, it’s a whopping 360€ for a bottle of 60ml. I’m not going into that debate just now, but I heard someone mentioning that this sort of price had become criteria to get your perfumes into the new uber-exclusive perfume departments at the most high-end department stores…

Disclaimer I bought the samples.

13 thoughts on “Cosy Carmen – 1875 Carmen Bizet Histoires de Parfums.

  1. Oh my goodness, 360 euro? I was just talking with Sabine at Les Senteurs on Weds about this rotten trend of mini-collections within a line at super-inflated prices. At least you’ve enlightened me as to the possible reasoning…

    At least it’s not so disappointing that you didn’t recognise Carmen throughout this perfume. No one could do a better job of examining how its character compares and I really enjoyed your insights. I hope you get to portray an original Carmen one day.

    • I’m not sure it’s true about the prices, but it made sense to me.
      To be honest, I’m puzzled at the Carmen reference, maybe she started out as Carmen, and got fased out during the mods? In that case I would be seriosuly curious as to how she started 🙂 Anyway, the perfume is really quite wonderful, just not on at the price. At least the samples are a good size, so I’ll get to wear it a bit.

  2. I was lucky to try the opera perfumes a few days ago and I liked both Carmen and one more (you know me and names) 😉 but hell, 360 Euros?!?! Really?
    No way.
    I don’t think they are that good. And I think the same about the Roja Dove.

    • Oh, you tried them too 🙂 You know, I like them all a lot, and at the normal HdP price, I’d definitely want some of them, AND have a difficult time choosing which not to buy. And wouldn’t the bottles look gorgeous if they were cut in half as the normal line? I think it always comes down to, what is that good that you want to pay the price? For me it’s just out of the question financially.

  3. I nearly fell off my chair when I realised the price!! I must admit that I do enjoy Carmen as an opera, I’m a huge fan of Bizet. But I’d love to see a new interpretation of the work.
    The combination of ginger, saffron and artemisia sound enticing. I’ll probably get a sample but full bottle? No way. Unless I madly fall in love with it…

    • I’m glad you think that way too. I mean, it doesn’t have to be outrageously new (‘neon cubes’ and ‘aliens’), just some new ideas, and perhaps a fresh look at what makes Carmen’s allure, which tends to be samey and one sided too.
      It’s a great fragrance, and as I replied to Ines, I think all 5 are really good. He’s so skilled Gerald Ghislain, everything is so classical French, smooth yet orchestral. The samples are 45€ for all 5, with 4ml samples, so actually not a bad deal considering the bottle price.

  4. Gosh, Monsieur Ghislain certainly covers both ends (plus the middle) of the price spectrum with his perfumes, because if I’m remembering correctly, he has the Scent of Departure series of perfumes that are only $45 for 50 ml, then his Histoires de Parfums line that are $125 for 75 ml … and now this one is 360 euros!! The bottle is beautiful and the perfume sounds lovely (though non-Carmenesque), but yowza, that’s a lot of money.

    At any rate, I loved your review because I share a similar viewpoint with you: it sort of bugs me when a perfume doesn’t really live up to its name or concept (or maybe I should clarify to say that when *I* think it doesn’t). I’ve often gone down the trail of perfume nerdiness thinking about these things. 😀

    • Great point Suzanne, unfortunately I never got to try them, because they seemed to never be avaiable at the airports I went to. There’s also his Alice and Peter range, which is cheap and incredibly cute in those little cup cake flacons.
      It might only be me who will feel like the name is a bit of a misfit with ‘1875 Carmen’, but still, it makes me want to know what the intension was, and if there was a certain place or quote that he had in mind.
      I agree, in general it feels weird when a name is difficult to associate to the scent, not that it will affect if I like the perfume or not… Yes, nerdiness is what we do, right? 😉

  5. I think this Cosy Carmen sounds like my thing exactly, hehe, and I loved your description of the cliche’d representation of this character in her polka dot flamenco dress etc. The scent sounds far removed from that, but one called Tuberose Animale has simply got to be the real Carmen, though I haven’t smelt it either. 😉 Like Tara, I am getting weary of these uber exclusive prices and distribution channels etc, though that bottle does look very appealing too!

    • Hoorah, I found something that you might like, I feel proud 🙂 It’s a great fragrance, and I think all 5 in the line are exquisite actually, so you should test them if you get the chance.
      And yes, you’re right Tubereuse Animale has got Carmen as its polka-dotted DNA, I’m sure of it.
      As for increased prices and exclusive ranges, I think we’re just not the target here, a bit like we’re not the target for haute couture and cartier diamonds?

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