Opera is more like real life… than real life.

Fresh out of university in 1980, I was encouraged  by my best friend to buy season tickets to the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.  This popular Montréal theatre had a reputation of putting on more traditional french-language plays, rarely anything experimental.  And, of course, there was always Molière and Shakespeare.  There was a time I saw more Shakespeare translated into French than English.

The same friend invited me to a couple of operas and it hit me!  This feels more like real life than theatre.  In fact, it feels more like real life… than life!

Today, friends ask me how can opera be more like real life than life?  I don’t know… to me, it just feels more like real life.  I guess it’s the music.  I still go to the theatre… maybe once a year.  But, I’ve replaced the theatre by music now… symphonies and operas.

For instance, anyone experiencing the despair of the end of a cherished love or the death of a parent or facing one’s own mortality immediately gets the message, even without understanding the lyrics.  In Tosca, the painter Mario Cavaradossi  is told that he has one hour to live and he sits to write a letter to Tosca.  (What would an opera be without a letter scene?)  Only this time, the tenor stops writing the letter to sing the beautiful and haunting E lucevan le stelle (And the stars shone).  The last words, “I have never loved life more.”


Some of my father’s earliest memories were of radio shows in the evening and one of my grandmother’s favourite radio shows featured opera arias and it always ended with Puccini’s O mio babbino caro (Oh, my dear papa).  This aria must have resonated with my grandmother.  In it, we hear Lauretta begging her father to let her marry her love, Rinuccio, who has just been been disinherited by his wealthy uncle.

No doubt, the parallels between Lauretta and my grandmother (Eugénie) were not lost on her.  She would have had to ask her father to marry her love, my grandfather (Giulio), an uneducated Italian immigrant without a history.

Don’t you love this photo?  Here they are, Eugénie and Giulio, the proud couple with their first born.

By the way, great hats, all!


Giulio, Eugénie and Orlando. (c. 1921)

What perfume might Dame Edith Sitwell have worn in her later years?

Dame Edith Sitwell 1916 by Alvaro Guevara 1894-1951

Dame Edith Sitwell by Alvaro Guevara (1916)

Do you know who Dame Edith Sitwell is?  You don’t?  Are you sure?  Well then, I don’t feel so ignorant because before watching this video, I didn’t know her either.   Of course, my next stop is to find some of her poetry but for now I thought I’d write about the kind of perfume that this grand lady might have worn.

Because of her royal British background, I’m going with a rose perfume but not one of those pink, powdery rose scents, like Paris by Yves Saint-Laurent.  I’m thinking of a deep, boozy red rose note.  And oud!  Yes, oud would be perfect because she has such an earthiness to her.  From my collection, I would have her wear Jo Malone’s Velvet Rose and Oud or Ex Idolo’s Thirty Three, although neither are really oud or dark enough.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear about them… I’ve always been a bit of a rose-whore myself so it might give me ideas for a fall perfume.

This next interview was on the BBC.  Imagine!  This was tv!  And today, they say we are in the golden age.  I’m not so sure.


Acqua di Parma : Rosa Nobile


Created by : François Demachy

Date : 2014

Genre : Confused rose

Concentration : eau de parfum

I defy anyone to put this rose-centric perfume on a scent strip and then NOT put it on their skin!  I thought the opening was gorgeous when I tried it out and immediately sprayed it on my wrist hoping that it would make a boring Sunday exciting as the perfume evolved over time.  Well… it evolved but not in the direction I like.

I find that rose scents are great when they are simple like Jo Malone’s Red Roses Cologne or all wrapped up in a complex chypre structure as in Estée Lauder’s Knowing or one of my all-time favourites, Coriandre by Jean Couturier.  Unfortunately, Rose Nobile is a wishy-washy rose scent… not simple enough for the purist in me nor complex enough for the connoisseur.  The opening was gorgeous… a kind of citrus rose with a clarity that pulled me in… but then it veered off into a non-descript floral with lots of powder clouding over the already blurred bouquet of notes.  On my skin, the drydown ended back in the rose territory but with a distinct sour note, which I didn’t like.

Acqua di Parma has some very beautiful perfumes, Magnolia Nobile comes to mind, but this one left me looking forward to washing it off.  The following day I tried it again but no, it didn’t appeal the second time around either.  I definitely recommend you try this one before buying.  Although the first few notes are spectacular, you might not like the bitter heart.

P.S.  This idea came to me a few hours after I posted this entry.  If you are looking for a powdery, rose-centric perfume with iris and without the sour note drydown, try the original Paris by Yves Saint-Laurent.  My bottle is about 10 years old and it is still wonderful.  It’s a bit big but that’s a question of dosage.  One spritz is enough.

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