If 1875 Carmen didn’t quite live up to its fiery name-sake, I am glad to say that today I look at two fragrances from the same collection which do.
I think I know no other opera which always makes me cry- it doesn’t matter which production or how good the singers. After having both done and watched Madama Butterfly more times than I can even begin to count, it still gets to me. If you’ve never been to the opera, Puccini is a great way to start, and I dare you to go un-touched by this particular drama…
I LOVE iris, but I’m uneasy that slowly its potential as a main note has been fully explored, at least that’s what I feel when I think of all the new irises that I’ve smelled over the last years. ’It’s not you, it’s me’ as Pinkerton would have said to Madama Butterfly had this been anno 2014.
However, this one is stunning. It’s a pearly iris, sitting just between buttery-rooty and sweet-powdery, never too much one or the other. Starting off on a wonderful soft suede (leather bound book-) note, for the most of its life Madama Butterfly is a pale heliotrope and coumarin blended with buttery iris root and veiled violet. Discreet woods (sandalwood in particular) and musk are sensed more than actively smelled and towards the very end the bitter-sweet marzipan facets of heliotrope is what stays on the skin when all else has faded.
This iris is solemn, but smiling through tears hopeful that ’un bel di’ one beautiful day her Pinkerton will come back for her and her son. I don’t smell any hints at fake japonaiserie, and I am grateful for that. It’s not a shy fragrance but it’s a humble and contemplative one. Thankfully, in this version we’re spared the Hara-kiri though not the tears of longing.
Top Note : Italian Mandarin essence, Néroli
Heart Note : Absolu Orris of Florence, Heliotrope
Base Note : Cedar essence, Sandal, Musk
Norma, the Bel Canto opera by Bellini with the main protagonist being the diva role over them all, comprising the great show piece aria Casta Diva (‘Chaste Goddess’).
This is a floral Aldehyde with a capital A. Gérald Ghislain has managed to tie together the two aspects of this opera; the diva status that the part of Norma enjoys, as well as the plot- the high priestess’ passion, the ‘antique’ of the setting and the pyre at which she and her lover end.
The aldehydes which open Norma are a fire-work akin to the bel canto style coloraturas. It is the aldehydes which this fragrance is about, they are retro-stylish and diva-like, and although there has been a revival of aldehydes of late, I have yet to encounter anything as sparkling and marble cold as these. No 5’s aldehydes as more fatty and rosé, they are closer to those of Vega but on steroids; Cat Woman sharp clawldehydes. Although I’m fine with my small amount of perfumes in this category, I have to admit, this opening blows me over, it’s frostbite and hellfire at the same time and a fitting pendant to the wild passions of the high Priestess Norma.
The fragrance stays incredibly retro, by introducing what I perceive as a blunt civet-note. No civet mentioned anywhere, what’s mentioned is something about a forest with scents of rose and jasmine… yes, there are roses and jasmine too I’m sure, this is after all very much a floral aldehyde, they are just not very important. In fact, once both sparkling diamonds and civet cat have left the drama, the fragrance burns down to very quiet embers of musk, resins and patchouli.
Top Note: Aldehyde, Pink Pepper
Heart Note : Rose, Jasmin, Comorian Ylang essence, Cistus Labdanum
Base Note : Indonesian Heart Patchouli, Sumatran Resinoid Benzoin, Vanilla, Praline, Musk
*Samples bought by me
*Main pic by me, vintage posters of the operas found online. Callas and Marilyn enjoying a diva moment.
*The opera collection retails at 360€ from a.o. HdP site