Show Time – Review: Histoires de Parfums Olympia, Music Hall

By Tara

L’Olympia Music Hall in Paris was founded in 1888 by the same gentleman – Joseph Oller – who created the Moulin Rouge (which also inspired a fragrance by Histoires de Parfums reviewed here). The legendary theatre put on a varied array of entertainment including music, circuses, ballets and operettas.


After it re-launched in 1954, Edith Piaf gave a series of recitals there and it hosted many international acts, including Judy Garland and Josephine Baker. It’s still used as a music venue today.

The nose behind the fragrance inspired by the theatre is Gerald Ghislain. Olympia, Music Hall was released in 2012 and notes include orange, bergamot, lemon, mandarin, pink berries, black pepper, saffron, rose, freesia, lilac, peony, blond wood, patchouli, frankincense, styrax, suede, vanilla,chocolate, licorice and white musk.


On spraying, the fruit in the top is juicy, ripe and generously dusted with black pepper and a good amount of saffron. There is a gauzy veil of musk covering the whole thing and its constant presence is a main feature of the fragrance.

The overall effect is powdery and personal, mimicking the aroma of performers getting ready in the dressing rooms backstage. The smell of lipstick and face powder fills the air, mingling with talc and body heat as everyone rushes to get dressed in time for curtain-up.

The flowers in the heart are pretty and sweet, once again overlaid by musk but now it’s stronger and more heady. The effect this time makes me think of vintage fur coats and well worn suede which have taken on the odour of the wearer’s make-up and floral perfume.

The base surprises me by being rather low-key by comparison. I was expecting bold patchouli and incense but I get a lightly resinous, softly musky, skin scent.

Everyone has left the theatre for the night and the aroma left hanging in the air is all that remains to tell the story of the evening’s spectacle.

Olympia is not a chuck-it-on-and-forget-about-it fragrance. It’s a sexy statement perfume with a striking character. Once it takes to the stage it makes you sit up and take notice. Like Josephine Baker herself, it’s attention grabbing and flirtatious.


It’s an interesting, abstract composition that’s not easily categorised. I really like the powdery, vintage feel and the way it’s a little bit seedy. Flowers, fruit and fur rub up against spice, suede and skin in a hot, enclosed space.

This style reminds me of Penhaligon’s recent Tralala. They don’t smell alike but they both have that eclectic, retro vibe. I’m sure different people will perceive it differently, depending on which of its facets they pick up on.

Maybe those with better tolerance would be fine but eventually the unrelenting musk just pushes it over the edge for me. It’s a shame because I like its playfully seductive personality a lot.

Olympia has gone to the trouble of applying full make-up and dressing up for the night in furs and feathers, determined to have a raucously good time.

If you’ve tried Olympia, Music Hall I’d love to hear how you found it.

I’d also be interested to know what your tolerance for musk is like. Please let me know in the comments.


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23 Responses to Show Time – Review: Histoires de Parfums Olympia, Music Hall

  1. Michael says:

    Lovely review Tara.
    Unfortunately the fruit and white musk don’t sound very appealing to me.
    I love musk heavy fragrances but unfortunately cleaner musks aren’t my thing, especially when combined with fruit.
    Is this one anything like 1889 Moulin Rouge or 1969 Parfum de Revolte?

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, Michael.
      Clean musks nearly always end up giving me a headache.
      I’ve only just got a sample of Moulin Rouge so I’ll wear it tomorrow and report back.

      • Tara says:

        Well, the main difference is that Moulin Rouge is extremely quiet – very much a skin scent on me. I get powder mixed with cold cream along with a bit of musk and spice. I really didn’t like the opening, I must admit.

        Olympia is much more lively, musky and more reminiscent of fur and make-up, for me anyway. It’s Moulin Rouge’s outrageous sister. Hope that helps!

  2. Ines says:

    Haven’t tried it yet but I really like the packaging. 🙂

  3. Sabine says:

    Hi Tara,
    My tolerance for white musk is pretty low, and unfortunately Olympia was a scrubber on me.
    Really hated it. Looking forward to seeing you tonight…

    • Tara says:

      Hi Sabine
      I can only take those musks for a short amount of time. It’s a shame because I really liked the character and feel of this one.
      See you later!

  4. Vanessa says:

    Well, I love Tralala and although you say the two don’t smell similar, I would be interested to try another scent with that vintage and slightly seedy vibe (which made me smile!). Sarah McC’s Tart’s Knicker Drawer is in that general vein, though with no naughty aspect whatsoever, despite the raunchy name.

  5. cookie queen says:

    Moulin Rouge made me ill. Music Hall doesn’t really call me, depsite your great review. For the record I used up a whole bottle of 1969. Every last drop. Layered it with patchouli oil. Hate clean musk. Double hate white musk. Like MKK need to be in the mood for it. Hugs. xxxx

    • Tara says:

      Oh dear, I’m a bit nervous about wearing Moulin Rouge tomorrow now. I don’t think this one is for you either. Those piercing musks can be so wearing.

      I really wish I’d included 1969 in my sample order!

  6. Asali says:

    Olympia Music hall and Hemingway are the two HdP I didn’t try yet. i love your description, so it’s very sad that the musk is not to your liking. Yes, laundry musk I can’t do, but the dirty musks I love. So or so I’d really like to try it. And I LOVE Moulin Rouge, and fur notes ( which funnily enough I’m just writing about 🙂 ) the fur note in MR is exquisite.

    • Tara says:

      Oooh now I’m looking forward to trying MR again! Intrigued to hear you’re currently writing about fur notes. Hope to read that soon.

      Never thought I’d say it but I actually think I do prefer dirty musks to clean musks. At least they don’t try to stab me in the head 🙂

      • Asali says:

        It’s just one perfume with a big fur note actually. And I am intrigued how you like Moulin Rouge 🙂

        • Tara says:

          I’m struggling to smell it! i put more on but it’s very quiet indeed on me. I found the opening pretty unpleasant – I guess that’s the lipstick note? Olympia seems more fur-like to me but perhaps that’s because I’m associating the musk/powder combination with fur coats.

          • Asali says:

            Could it be off? It’s really not something I’d call a quiet perfume. Strange. I can send some in a sprayer, if yours is a dab vial.

          • Tara says:

            Hmmm. Maybe dabbing is making a big difference. Thanks for the offer but don’t worry, I’ll decant it into a sprayer and try again.

  7. Hey Tara,
    WOW! Reads like the smell of my misspent youth. Have you ever seen the movie Sweet Charity? Musical starring Shirley MacLaine and Chita Rivera with great cameo by Sammy Davis Jnr? It’s like they bottled the essence of that movie.
    You have put it firmly on my to try list.
    Portia xx

    • Tara says:

      Hey Portia
      I haven’t seen the movie sadly but it’s great to hear you got that strong association from just from reading the post. I hope you review it at some point once you get a sample. I think it would be fabulous on you.

  8. Sandra says:

    Hi Tara. Like Portia you have made me put this perfume on my sample list. I do like clean and dirtier musks. Cleaner musks come out more in the summer months. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Tara says:

      Hi Sandra, I think if you get on okay with clean musks you should definitely give it a go. I really liked it apart from my lack of tolerance.
      Wishing you a wonderful weekend too!

  9. Undina says:

    I haven’t tried this perfume (yet?) but I like how you made it sound and even the closing part hasn’t spoiled it for me.
    I don’t mind musks, I think. At least I haven’t noticed any adverse reaction to it.

    • Tara says:

      I hope you get a chance to try Olympia and enjoy wearing it.

      I think for me the issue is just that the musk is over the top of everything else and lasts the whole time. If it was less pronouced or less long-lasting I might have be alright.

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