mardi 6 avril 2010

Edmond Roudnitska's Le Parfum de Thérèse: May the wind be gentle

There are some fragrances whose balance is so perfect you feel the merest whisper of a word would upset it, if they weren’t made to endure. Fragrances whose radiance can be the only light some days, even when the sun is out. Le Parfum de Thérèse is one such fragrance for me, perhaps because it was composed for a woman who bears the same name as my mother. But even with any other name, even if it had been called Fidji as it almost did, before Guy Laroche changed his mind and picked Josephine Catapano’s composition over Edmond Roudnitska’s, it would have still been the one I turned to when the magic of the world’s gone missing.

I bought Le Parfum de Thérèse on a happy occasion, the day I signed a contract for a book with a publisher who, I found out as we reached an agreement, had actually known Edmond and Thérèse Roudnitska when she worked for Rochas: serendipitously, I had chosen to wear Femme that day, and Femme was Martine’s most cherished perfume. I wore Le Parfum de Thérèse to sustain my courage on a day where I had to go sign other papers: someone who didn’t want to live, and who had no other friend but me in this country, had to be protected against himself.

I reach every once in a while for Le Parfum de Thérèse because each spray sends a shower of light on my skin. That honeyed melon sprinkled with mandarin and peppery bergamot exhales a tender jasmine breath; Edmond Roudnitska’s famous spicy Prunol base has been kissed with green tartness. I barely get leather: just a radiance that keeps unfurling, anchored to the skin by a warm, creamy base as the jasmine deepens into overripe fruit tones.

Le Parfum de Thérèse speaks in the exquisite voices of a Mozart opera – Cosi Fan Tutte’s Soave sia il vento, “May the wind be gentle”, comes to mind. Like the utter beauty of those Mozartian voices just as Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto inserts a cynical aside, this perfume tells you that even artifice, betrayals and lies can be subsumed into soaring harmonies.

Remember that scene towards the end of Manhattan, when Woody Allen muses to his tape recorder about what makes life worth living? “Well, there are certain things, I guess, that make it worthwhile. Like what?”

Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte

Marcello Mastroianni’s gaze

Anything by Charles Trenet

The Beach Boys’ Do you wanna dance?

The first page of Diderot’s Jacques le Fataliste

The Ronettes’ Be my baby

Tintoretto’s Lady baring her breasts at the Prado

Edmond Roudnitska’s Le Parfum de Thérèse

This really should have been called Joy. Merci Thérèse.

31 commentaires:

  1. Your review is as exquisite as the perfume. Your beautiful words are the gentle winds.

    Thank you so much ~Donna

  2. Denyse...for all of the delight I have taken in your teasing seductions...I do believe this love letter will be one to resonate for a long time.

    I'm glad that Roudnitska's creation returns the love, as it obviously must if it served so well as you attended to your friend.

  3. I am so glad your friend had you when he needed someone ....

    This was a wonderful start to the day. You have completed one list for me - Spring samples to order from Les Senteurs - and started another.

    What makes life worth living? Very quickly and before I start analyzing...
    Monteverdi "Pur ti miro" (L'Incoronazione di Poppea)
    Claire Denis' gaze - "Beau Travail"
    Anything by Thomas Ades
    Michael Finnissy "English Country Tunes"
    The first page of Richard Hughes' "The Fox in the Attic"
    Gorky's Zygotic Mynci "Sweet Johnny"
    Francis Bacon Head 111 1949
    Maurice Roucel Dans Tes Bras (which I'm hoping will take me through a period of mature reflection and study just as Joy did for my final undergrad year - years ago.)

    Your list was superb. Will you ever make one including places? Then I could add the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh... Or a certain theological library in Wales. Or the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Actually, taking one's small nephew to "The Comedy of Errors" really should be on a list.

  4. Merci Denyse.
    I have been struggling with Therese's overripe melon but your wonderful heartfelt review + the fact that I adore Roudnitska's other scents makes me want to give it another go. I know it's my shortcoming and not Therese's.

  5. Back when I tried it a few years ago, I felt like LPdT was too smart for me. My nose has gotten a wee bit smarter since then (wish I could say the same for the rest of my head), so I need to give it another try.

  6. Denyse -

    What a beautiful piece, ,thank you! It prompted me to retry PdT last night. It is luminous! Not sure if I'm grownup enough for it (and that's sayin' something) but I 'get' it.

    Glad it was able to help you, as you were able (and willing) to help your friend.


  7. My, you've been on a roll these last few weeks - your posts just seem to get better and better. An exquisite memoir/review of a perfume I wish I could like (the dreaded melon phobia strikes again); I might even go and test again on the back of it...Many thanks!

  8. Donna, it was barely a review... but then, it's hard to review a masterpiece. Thank *you*.

  9. ScentScelf, it's not an aspect of myself I usually disclose but well... Thérèse nudge me into it.

  10. GraceNature, though I have list-making periods, I'd never made that one, and put in what came off the top of my head. Serendipity striking again, I'd been discussing that very Monteverdi aria yesterday with a fellow music lover.

  11. Silvia, the melon is very divisive. I know it's a note a lot of people can't stand: calone ruined it for us. Still, sometimes perceptions and associations change...

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  13. Musette, a French commentator also noted the grown-up feel of PdT. It's not something I got from it... But it's definitely sophisticated.

  14. Parfymerad, thank you. I'm also writing something else which might explain the evolution in style and tone...

  15. Thérèse is one of my favourites, and I've been tempted to buy a bottle for years. It feels like the thing to wear on a romantic summer evening, but inspired by your post I sprayed some on this morning. I was already wearing a little Cristalle EDT, and while I wouldn't ordinarily presume to layer, I think they are getting along rather well.

  16. Hilary, I'd imagine Cristalle and Thérèse could play along just fine. I find it bright enough to wear in the morning, and the lasting power of those bright notes is excellent. I still get some of the green tartness now, ten hours later.

  17. There is a melancholy but beautiful aspect to your review, Denyse. I am so glad you had Therese to sustain you on a difficult task relating to your friend. When I first sampled PdT I rejected it because of the melon note, preferring E Roudnitska's Diorella. Then last year I tried M Roudnitska's Eau Emotionelle which truly is da melon bomb and heh! I liked it, alot. So I have come to the conclusion that what I hate is Calone not necessarily melon and your review will prompt a re-try of Therese. Thanks. Nicola

  18. Nicola, if you could withstand Emotionnelle, which is Michel's tribute to PdT, you can definitely revisit the original. As I said above, I'm sure it's in better shape than the current Diorella.

  19. from the heart. Thank you for this.

    I have been wearing Therese all through our early Texas spring, and have fallen in love with her all over again after not wearing her for a long time. The first round felt more like playing grown up to me, but now it is, as you say, about luminousity. She lifts and protects, but with such tenderness. When I think of her I think of graciousness.

    P.S. I enjoy Emotionelle, too, on certain days and in certain weathers, especially the dry down. That huge live melon opening makes me giggle.

  20. Alyssa, graciousness and tenderness are wonderful words to describe Le Parfum de Thérèse...

  21. Denyse,
    Indeed - Cosi fan Tutte provides a good case for living. It's my favorite Mozart opera, and the Monteverdi duet mentioned above is to die for (but I'd rather live and listen to it).
    Ever since I read about LPdT in a T&C article in 2001-02 I wanted to try it. Happiliy a trip to Paris allowed me to visit FM's shop on the Left Bank. In a blind test I picked it out of all the scents I tried as my favorite. Now years later, I've been struggling to recover the magic of that first sniff. Maybe someday...

  22. OperaFan, of course there's a good case to be made for the introduction of Mozart's Gran Partita, the kindness and tenderness of it. How that much wisdom could be expressed in notes is sublime.
    Now for recapturing that coup de foudre for Thérèse... I guess if you remember it you haven't really lost it.

  23. Denyse,

    Beautiful review.

    I used to adore Parfum Therese, but after I smelled Diorama it became a flanker. And I was sad.

    xx A

  24. Abigail, was the Diorama vintage? I own a version that was put made a couple of years ago which I found very close indeed to Thérèse, but rounder and milder. In many ways, Edmond Roudnitska always pursued the same idea and I think each one of his fragrances is closely related to the other, starting with their "mother", Femme.
    But Thérèse's sparkling opening is more joyful than Diorama's to me, at least the Diorama edt I have: I suppose the materials are better too.

  25. actually, I haven't tried vintage Diorama yet. I have a bottle of the current Diorama and love it. I tried Therese first and fell for it big time :-) but then once I tried Diorama is was so close that it no longer felt like a stand alone work. I still adore Therese but it just fell off it's pedestal for me.
    Yes, I agree, the opening of Therese is more sparkling, effervescent and sheer. Therese is sort of like a Diorama butterfly.

  26. Abigail, I own both but I find myself more drawn to Thérèse, if only because it's got much better quality materials in it.

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  28. I read this post just a couple of days ago. Love Thérèse, love your review. I find it to be a very contemplative scent; your review reflects that beautifully!

    To your list of things making life worth living I would like to add a few of my own:

    Le plateau de Valensole in June/July

    The Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels by Rembrandt ( this might just be sheer Dutch chauvinism but whenever I visit the National Gallery in London I have to go and see this Painting.)

    Erbarme Dich from the Matheus Passion ( Matthew' s Passion (?)) by Bach.

    Wasn' t Mastroianni a fabulous actor, and wasn't he stunningly good looking?

    Sorry to make such a long comment, but this post really moved me, just like Thérèse does.

  29. Berber, thank you. Bach... ah, Bach. Certainly makes life worthwhile, and Matthew's Passion is particularly dear to me.