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.