IN the mid-1980’s there was a mini, sudden, spice wave: Italianate, operatic; fur coats and roses steeped in mulled wine. With cloves and cinnamon, carnation, ylang ylang, mimosa, pimento, leather,  incense, even chocolate,  these piquant, extravagant, animalic floral bouquets screamed stilettos: full dressing, elaborately applied expensive French makeup and a sense of purpose : to be the last minute, and delectable crowning spritz or five for that exciting; hair perfect;  gala night out.

The most famous by far of these dark-lacquered divas is undoubtedly Coco, Chanel’s bird-plumed foray into drama; Gucci’s taloned and gilded L’Arte; then Fendi’s successful ( and now also defunct ) eponymous perfume that was so jam-packed with spices it practically fizzed. Teatro Alla Scala, by Krizia, another fine addenda to this short-lived ( but thrilling) craze of the olfactory extroverts even put its opera credentials right up there in its name, but it is, in any case, also inherently plush and rich and eventful : full-throated and sensuous;  less oriental than Coco, less all-spiced than Fendi, less tragic than Ungaro’s Diva ; more balanced, more knowing , and self-fledged in its heart (admittedly, I have added more clove oil to my own petit miniature ( about 20% of its total volume), just to make it even MORE lush and spicily histrionic – but that’s just because I am possibly insane).


At at this time of year especially, though,  I CRAVE to smell these kind of happy, screw-you, voluptuous scents. I want a woman to walk by me on the street looking gorgeous, whatever her age, in  total possession of herself, contented; and SLAYING me there and then as I drink in her trail  :::: her hot, tantalizing, humorous, life loving, spice- drizzling, neck-guzzling…….PERFUME


Filed under Spice


  1. Bee Wyeth

    I had a small tragedy when I moved house this year and in transit lost the contents of my Krizia Teatro bottle – boo hoo, BUT I found a full atomiser in a charity shop about a month later – Hurray! One of those lovely little fate balancing miracles that puts the spice into life.

  2. Lilybelle

    I’ve never smelled Teatro alla Scalla! I remember those Coco/Fendi/Diva days well, though. And I wore Krizia and Krazy Krizia. Never Teatro. I think I was always more of a romantic floral type. I wore YSL Paris and Oscar. Now I want to smell Teatro.

  3. Lilybelle

    Speaking of wishing to smell perfume on people, I didn’t smell it on ANYONE (except myself) on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, neither in public, nor church, nor at home among family. What is UP???

  4. MrsDalloway

    That made me go on eBay and snag a bottle, so I’ll have to work on the hair and manicure. It does sound gorgeous.

  5. Just a great, energetic, uplifting and fun piece, Neil, and so true! The Italians really knew how to rock that style back then. I don’t have the parfum of Teatro alla Scalla, but I have a nice nearly-full bottle of EdT (the weird plastic frame is part of its retro charm, I have decided) and just put some on in solidarity. I love its evolution, too; it starts off brazenly, yet winds up being so rich and cuddly once the spices burn off and the balsamics are revealed.

    Another Italian masterpiece, I think, along the same lines is the original Gianni Versace. It is another amber-y, balsamic thing, which sometimes seems to start off slowly — very much a “brown” scent — and then accelerates in spiciness. I have it right beside my Teatro all Scala in my fridge; I think they are happy together, peas in the same Italianate pod.

    I long for a world populated by Neils, where we could shamelessly and unapologetically wear powerhouse fragrances. Sometimes I just have a huge need to be in a CLOUD of assertive vintage scent and have everyone within ten feet of me enjoy the hell out of it. It will never happen, but a girl (or boy) can dream.

    • So glad you have the bottle (I will admit I was ogling the parfum on the internet a bit earlier on). But talk about clouds: I have made Duncan actually ill tonight I think, as I am smothered in Teatro Alla Scala, Armani Pour Femme, Diva Parfum, and Nombre Noir parfum. Sometimes the lack of perfume on the streets just drives me to this: I’m sorry.

    • I never smelled that Versace, incidentally, but I love the gingery profligacy of the original L’Homme, and I would like to smell V’E again, which I remember being a rich 80’s jasmine in a bizarrely shaped bottle.

      Versace REALLY went downhill, though quickly. ‘Bright Crystal’ and the like are just on the level of shampoo/ toilet cleaners now.

  6. OnWingsofSaffron

    I completely agree with Lilybelle: I do not very often smell perfume on friends, colleagues, strangers – and I don’t even live in Japan (rather in Brussels and Cologne). I find people are in a way frightend of perfume: c’est trop; pulling too much attention to oneself; being too little professional; (as a man) being too feminine, etc.
    Likewise, I hardly ever get a comliment regarding my wonderful vintage perfumes. I hardly dare think about what that means: embarrasment? Mere tolerance??
    I therefore now compliment every man or woman who wears a nice scent, just to make things going.

    • These days, I find myself complimenting ANYONE wearing discernible scent, good, bad or indifferent. Desperate measures for desperate times.

    • I think this why I suddenly wrote this post: NO ONE wears perfume, not even my friends. People just smell of their hair and clothes. But it’s so exciting to encounter someone wearing a scent that really suits them: there is a deeper, more intriguing interaction almost at the molecular level. Ironically a good perfume ends up being more revealing and open than nothing- it cloaks but daggers you

  7. Renee Stout

    I will spritz on my Teatro Alla Scala right now, in your honor and go to my studio in these grubby sweatpants to paint (smile).

  8. I dug out my mini of this one and dabbed two tiny dots on my wrist. It’s a baby powder dusted fur-clad beast in high heels chewing Juicy Fruit gum and was just presented with a bouquet of flowers. I like it a lot but I don’t have the panache to pull it off!

  9. Tara C

    Sadly I have never smelled Teatro Alla Scala, but I do love Coco. Body cream + 10 spritzes = heaven.

  10. Maria/Grayspoole

    Buone feste, Neil, from an occasionally spicy Italian-American lady. I share your enthusiasm for these 1980’s concoctions. Italy seemed to be on the cutting edge of fashion when I was young. I traveled to Italy in my teens and returned with a doorstop-sized Italian Vogue that I studied like scripture. I wore the original Coco EDP then, which definitely seems more Italian than French in spirit. More recently, I’ve been collecting vintage 80’s Italian oriental floral/woods…Teatro, Armani, Gianni Versace, Krazy Krizia, Roma. I think they are all wonderfully complex and balanced, great vintage buys, and I DO wear them out (one of the privileges of age–I just don’t give a damn).

    Have you tried Cardin (1976)? It’s a delicious spicy chypre…or Valentino Vendetta (1991)? Spiced fruit amber. Meanwhile, the lamented lost Theorema, which would seem to be the logical follow-up to all of these perfumes is too gourmand for me.

    Let’s all enjoy our festive clouds of perfume and let nothing us dismay…

    • How fantastically put and yes: I do know (and have) the parfum of Cardin: gorgeous at the beginning but a bit generic perfumy in the conclusion I find, but I do like a dab now and then: Vendetta is like Venezia in that it is almost TOO much, it goes overboard (which is great, but you remember Oleg Cassini? I am in the middle of a massive Dynasty marathon so am craving even that, but in reality some of those perfumes REALLY did overdo it). What I like about Teatro and Fendi was that they weren’t too sweet. In fact, they were hardly sweet at all: just the roses, the spices, and the balsams. They had a kind of ‘don’t touch me but do stare at me’ quality that I love. Nowadays, if you want spicy roses you have to go the whole Portrait Of A Lady hog with a great oudh schlong underneath – I mean I love the Arab treatment of rose, but there was just something about the Italian treatment, of that particular time, that really did it for me.

      (By the way, Italian Vogue costs a FORTUNE here in Japan, but sometimes I just can’t resist buying it!)

  11. Karsten

    Hi Neil,
    I’d like to add that Krizia’s Teatro alla Scala (in the original formula) is one of the most evocative olfactive portrait of Milan during that brilliant decade. It is the city where I am born and live, and the 80’s has been a golden age everyone around my age and up remember. Krizia, along with Ferré, Armani, Moschino, Missoni and Fiorucci is one of the most iconic names of Milan based creativity and one of the most loved fashion designers of the worldwide applauded Italian Style.

    • Assolutamente! Avrei voluto abitare a Milano in questo periodo, e andare alla Scala per sentirli…….ma anche quando abitavo a Roma nel 92 le donne indossavano questi profumi magnifici, travolgenti (anche se in verità erano un po ridicolo!). Li adoravo comunque, lo stesso. Conosci anche Krizia Uomo? E strano e unico.

      • Karsten

        Complimenti per il tuo italiano! E’ vero, erano profumi bellissimi, lasciavano una scia enorme che a volte poteva anche risultare fastidiosa per qualcuno, ma la qualità delle fragranze era spesso immensa. Non conosco Krizia Uomo, lo cercherò.
        Congratulations for your italian! It is true, they were beautiful perfumes, they had such a huge sillage someone could have found annoying, but the quality of the fragrances was often immense. I do not know Krizia Uomo, I’ll look for it.

      • ‘Scia’: I never knew that was the word for sillage……..mi piace.

      • C’è qualcosa, Neil, che non si conosce?!

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