Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Krizia Teatro alla Scala: fragrance review

Revisiting a spicy oriental amidst the heat and turpor of the big metropolis when it's 38C outside is not exactly conductive to proper thinking. All that density might go to one's head and have bystanders get murderous thoughts! And yet, Teatro alla Scala, a forgotten masterpiece by Krizia, doesn't produce any of those effects. All right, it's not citrusy, it's not a clean musk, it's not even a tropical floral. It's an effing spicy oriental! But you know what, sometimes that's what the doctor ordered. The spice is so jolting that it manages to create the impression of cleaness, if you can believe it!

A similar effect was first explored in Caron's Poivre and Yves Saint Laurent's now changed Opium. Some spices in collaboration with aldehydes create a hot-cold effect (non mentholated, it's a different vibe), reminiscent of the feel you get after the passage of a hot iron over clean cotton or linen. The scent also brings to mind the vibrancy of Coco by Chanel (the original oriental from the mid-1980s, specifically the vintage Eau de Parfum) minus the leathery facets. It stands to reason, Teatro came out in 1986, two years after Coco. Another kinship could be argued to be with the original Fendi, but I personally always found that one to be denser and more masculine and definitely only suitable for the coldest nights of winter. I don't know who the perfumer is and couldn't find it in my guides, but it feels like a Jacques Polge extension of his Coco mods. The Krizia outfit is rather underappreciated in perfume circles, although they produce fabulous things (even sparkling and dry wines!), another fragrance worth noting the cool, mossy and all around lovely K by Krizia, more of which on a later day.

Suffice to say Teatro alla Scala is discontinued (Murphy's Law, all the good ones eventually seem to head that way; or else they're mutilated through multiple Joan-Rivers-worth facelifts...). I sourced mine through a swap. The ratio of phenylpropanoid eugenol (a gigantic clove-peppery note) is just the sort of thing that would have the current IFRA-police erupt in hives and have it ostracized to outer space. Then again fate and time saw to that before they did. In a way, I'm thankful: It means each Art Deco style bottle surfacing would be the good stuff; it saves us the trouble of going through endless deliberations on bottle styles changes, packaging design and searching all surfaces of bottle and box for tiny printed or etched codes denoting different batches. Even at the heights of its popularity it wasn't distributed in France, which makes me think there are some great things in perfumery that even the French fail to appreciate. Even if it evokes the paradisal nights spent at the famous Milanese theater. Does anyone still wear it and appreciate this scent? I'd be interested to find out.

The opening of Teatro alla Scala cuts through a wall of bricks with its symphonic spicy note of clove and pepper while the flowers emerge slowly, with assuredness and without any distraction from the majestic track troden. Many orientals cede into plush amber notes that engulf you in tentacles of sweetness and powderiness, which comforting though it might be on ocassion, sometimes reminds of big bosom-heavy aunts hugging too enthusiastically which unfortunately can put the "sexy" out of the window once the thought crosses your mind. This one is certainly not gaunty, the way some cerebral chypres or medicinal orientals can be ~more brains than heart~ but instead has a fine, sculpted feminine figure, the incense and moss at the base restraining the honeyed, sweeter notes, the naughty, "dirty" civet bringing out the carnation at the heart underscored by a soup├žon of cool rose. Yet it never vulgarises itself through too much cleavage or low tricks, it's always classy. Almost begs for an encore after the performance.
Its perfect, sultry proportions slink through simple, bold evening dresses for a big night out. Yes, even if it's a hot night, as long as you know how to use only one spray over your navel...

Notes for Krizia Teatro alla Scala:
Top: aldehydes, coriander, fruity notes and bergamot
Heart: carnation, tuberose, orris root, jasmine, beeswax, ylang-ylang, rose and geranium.
Base: patchouli, musk, benzoin, civet, oakmoss, vetiver and incense.

Photograph of Anna Magnani via


  1. I wear it! I appreciate it!

    I have only two minis, alas...I wonder if it is easier to find over there?

    I don't know this from "the past" first mini came in one of those auction hauls. And after my first try, I immediately stashed it for special nights. The second wearing? My first time to a performance at the Met, just last spring. Perfecto. One date since. I'm not sure when the next will be...but I have scavenged one more mini.

    I am, of course, having one of those validation/oh no now they all now reactions to your lovely review... ;)

    Speaking of Joan Rivers, did you know *she* offered perfume? Hawked it on a television shopping network, I think. All I know is I have a handful of 15ml bottles of the stuff...not the joy that Krizia is, which is another corollary to Murphy, right? (I mean, when will a stash of something I love fall into my lap??? {sigh} :) )

  2. Anonymous02:11

    I used to wear & love this but for some strange reason I can't remember what it smelled like.

    With most of the (many) perfumes I wore through the 60s, 70s & 80s I have a memory lodged somewhere in my brain of at least some idea of the scent, but Teatro & Coco (which I also wore - a lot)are gone. I certainly don't recall Teatro as spicy or oriental but strangely, "floral". This is probably because at that time I was practically marinating myself in the original Fendi, which I loved so much it (almost) became a signature scent.

    As a side note, the only fragrances I have ever worn which have received glowing comments from male companions were the Fendi & F. Millot's Crepe de Chine.


  3. I remember seeing these great ads for Teatro, featuring nothing but its majestic bottle, and I managed to smell it on someone's dresser back in the eighties, along with the (sadly, also gone) first Armani. I loved Teatro's richness and when I recently decided to track down all the perfumes I remember from my childhood, this was on the top of my list. Unfortunately, all I scored is a mini, but it comes in a beautiful bottle as well. I think this is one of the great orientals, and I think I prefer it to Opium, which skews bit too musky for my taste (as sampled from my mid-eighties bottle - we are not talking about the latest, rubber band version).
    I think it would indeed make a great opera scent, if worn lightly. I go to opera on regular basis, at least once a month, and I often use it as an opportunity to wear something unusual from my sample collection but there's something to be said for wearing perfume as opulent as this one on such grand occasions as opening night galas and so on, or whenever a ballgown in rich hue is called for. Certainly it would be fun to wear it to La Scala, if they ever actually have a performance instead of the usual "canceled because of the strike" non-event.
    BTW, Turin mentions Teatro alla Scala twice in The Guide, while reviewing the original Coco and some "Opium Lite" Mary Kay perfume called Affection, and apparently has a very high opinion of it.

  4. S,

    sounds like you have at least managed to score a bit to last you through festive occasions. If you really really want a bit more and can't find it, it would be my pleasure to send you a decant. :-)

    Thanks for the lovely compliment and LOL, I know what you mean!! ROTF! :D

    As to Joan Rivers, I seem to recall this being mentioned (and she was also part of a Muppet spoof on perfume selling which I had posted some while ago) but have absolutely no idea what or how her perfume was like....Care to enlighten me, please?

  5. Jen,

    thanks for the idea, will give it a look.

  6. Maggie,

    thanks for providing an excellent recount of how you enjoyed the scent back in the day. It's so very interesting to hear from people who wore those scents and know them well.
    There is certainly the flower heart and I guess the clove note is usually "read" as carnation (it's because the carnation note is recreated using spicy ingredients alongside rose usually, sometimes ylang ylang too). So I'm not surprised at all you find it rather floral, especially compared to a denser oriental like Fendi.

    Very interesting about men complimenting Fendi (and Crepe de Chine, what a beauty!): I suppose you said this because I said that Fendi seemed more masculine to me? Or something else?

  7. Akimon,

    thanks for chiming in, very very interesting comment!

    There is certainly kinship with Opium and, oh dear, yes, the old one, not the newest....(such a shame).
    It would be a great festivity/occasion nights-out scent, not just the Scala. Which period are you interested in? Belcanto, Wagnerian, something else?

    Nice to know Luca Turin likes Teatro too, must have missed that, two mentions eh?

    BTW, the classic Armani pour Femme was GREAT!! (and I receive lots of compliments while wearing it)

  8. Olfacta12:34

    I have Teatro and K and adore them both. After getting a sample of Teatro in a swap last year I went hunting and found quite a bit on fleabay and with the discounters. K is not so easy but is "findable." The fleabay sellers seem to realize that they can charge much bigger bucks for discontinued.

    Teatro is a big fragrance but nothing like the Godzillas (Poison,etc) of the 80's. K could be a warmer weather fragrance easily (in fact, I've been inspired to wear it today!)

  9. Anonymous23:22

    No, no E. My comment about Fendi getting compliments was not really related to your remarks but was prompted by mild nostalgia at the memory of the scent & the days when I did get compliments. Doesn't happen now I'm afraid, no matter what perfume I'm wearing (rueful laugh).

    Gaia at The Non Blonde recently reviewed the original Armani Women's fragrance which is another one I wore and loved and though I usually don't go back to fragrances worn in the past I was prompted by her review & your's of Teatro to go searching on Ebay.

    These two are going for about $300 American for a bottle. All I can say is "Yowza!!!". I don't think I'll be spending that much for a nostalgic sniff.


  10. Sounds lovely! Thanks for sharing :)

  11. Anonymous01:14

    Teatro Alla Scala does indeed smell like a cross between Opium and Coco, with a dash of Poison-like sweetness to boot. Lovely bottle.

    If you like big '80s fragrances, this is a real gem.

  12. Anonymous01:14

    Teatro Alla Scala does indeed smell like a cross between Opium and Coco, with a dash of Poison-like sweetness to boot. Lovely bottle.

    If you like big '80s fragrances, this is a real gem.

  13. Found your review by accident as I was searching for replacement bottles of the only scent I've ever worn. I am saddened by the fact that this perfume is no longer available anywhere (last bottle purchased at one of those perfume emporiums). I have 2 bottles with about 1/3 of the bottle left (had a 3rd that has disappeared some how). Out of the 3 bottles, only 1 spray works, but I couldn't throw the unused perfume away. Trying to devise a way to get it out of the original bottles...Any suggestions?

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written review. You put into words why I've been so loyal to this one for all these years. I can't tell you how many compliments I've received throughout my lifetime. Looking for a replacement, but I feel like a 70 year old widow waiting for the love of her life to pass away.

  14. Yes! Thank you for talking about Krizia perfumes. I love her scents and whatever I bought (on ebay) was great. I own a huge bottle of teatro and adore it, especially in Summer! It is so dressy though, that I do not wear it in the evening and I never put on any jewelry colorful or flowery clothes with it. It needs no distractions. OP Art checkers in flat colors go well with it, though...

  15. P,

    they're both wonderful, aren't they? Enjoy! I agree with your statements on them.

    Yeah, the ebay situation is rather comical these days. Ordinary mainstream becomes $$$ when discontinued. It's as much as the market can bear, I guess.

  16. Maggie,

    sorry for coming on board late on this.

    Understood on the Fendi.
    Well, I too loved Armani "classic" as they call it these days (in fact had included it in the "Chypres that time forgot" article in the Chypre series, I believe; lemme check) and agree that it's wonderful. I think you could perhaps find it at a lower price than that, though.
    It's a pity that ebayers charge so much. That keeps people from discovering (or revisiting) lovely stuff and sometimes it makes an unsniffed or "turned" purchase a stinging experience.

  17. Samy,

    you're welcome. It is lovely indeed.

  18. Anon,

    yeah, it's a very oooomph fragrance, but oddly I find it less "intrusive" than Poison, say. It's as you say a real gem.

  19. GB,

    thanks for commenting and sorry for the late response, just saw this.
    Well, now that Opium is rather ruined, there is no replacement I guess. These two were close. Maybe Cinnabar (or even vintage Tabu) might come close somewhat to what you liked in Teatro.
    As to getting the perfume out of defective sprays, alas there's no sure way to do it unless you destroy the spray mechanism (pull it all off by sawing the glass) and decant the juice in another bottle. :/ At least you will have the perfume to use.

  20. Andrea,

    thanks for commenting and you're welcome. You would like my K de Krizia review as well, I think. She had a good line with elegant scents. Those two are my favourites.

    I love your scheme for wearing Teatro! Sounds very simple but dramatic!


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