"Elle Pour Lui" By Luca Turin
Symmetry (see last month’s column) demands that men be allowed, at long last, to wear feminine fragrances. This does not mean doing anything sudden, like showing up at the office party in fairy princess costume, or wearing La Perla silk knickers under your cords. Rather, think of perfume as music that plays when you appear, and try a change of leitmotiv from Mission Impossible to, say, Doctor Zhivago. Remember that you now have at your disposal the vast range of feminine raw materials, from violets (viola d’amore) to tuberose (Wagner tuba). You must choose your own tune , keeping in mind an overall dynamic marking: nothing above mezzo forte.
A few programme notes to get everyone started. If you want your melody spare and poignant, like Satie’s Gymnopédies, go for Guerlain’s 1916 Après l’Ondée, or Patricia de Nicolai’s magnificient Odalisque, a strange, floral-salty fragrance of faultless discretion. You prefer the solid-chocolate sound of Rubinstein playing Chopin’s Nocturnes ? Shalimar (regular or lite) or Coty’s Emeraude, if you can still find it on the Web. For less peace and a lot more heartbreak, as in Schumann’s Arabesque, Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist is unsurpassed.
Ready for ensemble playing ? For those who inhabit the sensitive (eighteen-) nineties, Guerlain’s l’Heure Bleue or Caron’s Nuit de Noël will supply the Fauré soundtrack. If Janácek wrote your favourite string quartet , a Germaine Cellier perfume is needed: Bandit (Piguet) especially, though it lost some of its angular passion in the 1999 reissue. Try also the reckless brilliance of Black (Bulgari), Annick Ménardeau’s talcum-and-rubber masterpiece. Does your heart hanker instead for the breezy elegance of early Modernism ? Do you think Prokofief’s Peter tune eats the Wolf’s alive? Then wear Caron’s euphoric Royal Bain de Champagne or its modern reinterpretation Flower (Kenzo) and go fetch your monocle.
Steadied by an intermission drink and stroll, you are now ready for the main event. If you want the steely radiance of Corelli, then Tommy Girl (marked pianissimo) will follow you around playing a dozen concerti grossi. My own idea of heaven is the slow movement of a late Mozart piano concerto, and nothing translates better its velvet stillness than Jean Kerléo’s aptly named Sublime (Patou). Finally, if you take your marching orders from the final movement of Bruckner’s Eighth, brass tuttis and all, then go for the eighth-ounce of Bal à Versailles, a perfume so big and Romantic it seems odd that it can be made to fit in such a tiny bottle.