Romanza plays Spring as the season of bittersweetness, with fresh, young stems, flowers and leaves all crushed together. Narcissus perfumes are a rarity yet Romanza bears a resemblance to Parfums de Nicolai le Temps d’une Fete. Both perfumes set narcissus’s green reediness in a woody, resinous setting, albeit with different orchestration. Romanza’s absinthe topnote performs a role similar to le Temps’s chalky galbanum, ushering in a grassy, green-floral range centered on narcissus. In the heartnotes the two perfumes diverge, though both transition from flowers to woods. Imagine Romanza’s basenotes as sitting an octave or two below le Temps.
I have no idea if Masque Milano even knew of le Temps d’une Fete, but if they are taking on de Nicolai, they’re running directly into the fire. Le Temps d’Une Fete is one of Patricia de Nicolai’s strongest works, a Green Floral that has earned a place next to the other heavy hitters of the genre like Guerlain Chamade, Chanel 19 and VeroProfumo Mito. Romanza’s passing similarity in shape to le Temps is less important than the difference in its intent. Le Temps’s fresh-scrubbed freshness is pure sunlight next to Romanza’s midnight narcissus.
Romanza is based on the attraction of opposites. Bitter angelica accentuates narcissus’s sweet vitality and from the very topnotes Romanza is filled with shadow and texture. The amber drydown has a growl that does not go gentle anywhere. Narcissus might be the image of spring, but the scent is the furthest thing from the stereotype of Spring prettiness. It’s mucky, muddy and messy. Romanza doesn’t hide narcissus’s chaotic side. It liberates it, offering a beautifully defiant take on Spring. The romantic fiction of the season is a birds-cooing, hand-in-hand cartoon of courtship. Romanza reminds us that Spring is brief and there’s no time for subtlety. It dispenses with the niceties and reaches a hand down the front of your pants while it looks you dead in the eye.
Masque Milano’s framing of their perfumes as literary, operatic and episodic is well thought out and has led to a sumptuous style of perfumery. The perfumes are detailed and specific and I don’t question the producer’s/perfumer’s process, but plot and narrative aren’t a requirement to enjoy the perfume. Shear the story from Romanza and you’re left with an exceptional perfume with a detailed, calibrated aesthetic. Romanza is a provocative perfume from a young perfumer and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for future work from Christiano Canali.