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 soupçon 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 iiclegrado.esteri.it