Roses de Mai Marathon: L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is not only one of the most gifted American perfumers, but one of the most beloved. I’ve never had the privilege of meeting her, but I follow her doings and have bought some of her lovely offerings. It feels even more important to do so when able, to support our independent artisan perfumers. Today’s penultimate entry in the “Roses de Mai Marathon” is her creation L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses.

It is part of the DHS Perfumes set  of scents that together make up a scent experience based on Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny. This was to accompany the Denver Art Museum’s show of Impressionist and post-Impressionist flower paintings:

DSH has created Monet’s garden at Giverny in three accords to create the full panoramic effect:  Le Jardin Vert (the green foliage, trees, and moist earth), La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes (the gauzy dance of violets, irises, and lilacs), and l’Opera des Rouges et des Roses (the dramatic opera of old roses, peonies, and carnations).  The scent experience all came together to a final piece with each accord woven together, which is the “Giverny In Bloom” scent: the aroma created in the scent experience space.

The set, which you can still buy at the DSH Perfumes website, includes those three accords plus the grand finale, Giverny in Bloom.

L’Opera is not a rose soliflore, far from it, but it is certainly a rose-centered fragrance. I love the pun contained in the name: In French, “rose” can mean the color pink, or the flower itself. “L’Opera des Rouges et Roses” can be translated as “the opera of the reds and pinks”, referring to one of Monet’s famous color schemes, but it can also mean “the opera of the reds and the roses.” Honestly, the name alone is so alluring that it might cover for a number of flaws in the fragrance — but there aren’t any.

The listed notes are: ambergris, bulgarian rose, bergamot, carnation, rose de mai, clove, damask rose, indian patchouli, rose, jasmine, moroccan rose, sandalwood, opoponax, orris root, palmarosa, peony, red rose, honey, benzoin, tolu balsam, myrrh, tunisian neroli, turkish rose oil and vanilla absolute. Dawn describes it as “a classical floral bouquet of peony, old roses, carnation, and grandiflorum jasmine with oriental-animalic hints in the drydown.”

When creating the ‘internal accords’ for the Giverny In Bloom ‘scent experience’, the task was to create the section of the garden filled with peonies, roses, and carnations.   The image came quite clearly: that this part of the design was singing of vibrant reds and pinks.   In the Artist’s garden it’s the “Reds and Pinks” that have the flair, fire, and dramatic spirit I was looking for.  There is nothing shy or hidden about these beauties; they fill the stage and sing the Opera of nature.

When I first apply L’Opera, I get this wonderful blend of rose, bergamot, carnation, and clove. Oh, my, it is so beautiful! I happen to have a big bunch of fresh peonies in the house right now, and so I’m able to compare their smell to the heart of L’Opera. Yes, there they are. The carnation is almost as prominent as the rose, which I love. On Fragrantica, one commenter said that L’Opera seemed similar to Caron’s Bellodgia, which is based on carnation. The carnation continues after the opening, but the peonies also enter the stage and are quite prominent. As the fragrance develops, it becomes warmer and sweeter, with a vintage feel but still very modern.

I don’t pick up the jasmine, but the trio of rose, peony, and carnation is very lovely. If you are familiar with Richard Strauss’ opera “Der Rosenkavalier“, they may bring to mind the legendary trio he wrote for three sopranos:

I see Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the “Marschallin”, as the rose. Octavian, the young man who is her lover, is of course the carnation; and Sophie, the young ingenue with whom Octavian has fallen deeply in love, is the peony, fresh and innocent. The notes in the fragrance L’Opera blend together as beautifully and seamlessly as the musical notes in Strauss’ trio (so beloved by the composer that he left instructions for it to be performed at his own funeral).

In Monet’s actual garden at Giverny, the peonies are planted among and between roses, the mix of colors resembling a painter’s palette. Seeing the photos and paintings makes me a bit melancholy, as I had hope to be in France visiting Paris and Normandy (and Giverny) this very week. But how lucky I am to be able to enjoy this star turn of a fragrance while sheltering at home with my own garden!

Claude Monet Pivoines

Painting by Claude Monet: “Pivoines”, or “Peonies”; 1997

L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses is a masterwork in its own right, the creation of a top perfumer and artist at her peak. If you are seeking a floral aria of red and pink flowers, seek no more! This is the one.

Have you tried DSH Perfumes? Do you have any favorites?

2 thoughts on “Roses de Mai Marathon: L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses

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