Masque (2015)

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Romanza by Masque

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About Romanza by Masque

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Romanza is a shared scent launched in 2015 by Masque

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of Romanza by Masque

There are 7 reviews of Romanza by Masque.

Lowering dark clouds, the ragged, muddy meadow with tall grasses and yellow blooms, and a mourning cello player in the distance, Romanza is like an expression of love with tears in its eyes – god, does that not make you feel good to be alive.
An overdose of what smells like sodden hay sets its melancholy tone – it's an odour that compels but has a bit of an attract-repel quality reminiscent of the vegetal mood of Oriza's Chypre Mousse. Within it blooms the narcissus, indolic yet not weighed down, its naturally fatty scent cut by a fruity sourness like unripe apricots. The metallic and greasy greenness of violet leaf combines with this completely organic (and on the brink of decay) mix with great ease. Far, far away, the purr of something resinous.
Romanza takes you to a place you do not want to go but really you do, a place of deep emotion that stirs you up. And yet its face remains calm. I cannot help but think that Nathalie Lorson was visiting the same place when she composed Myths Woman for Amouage, its swampy narcissus a relative of Romanza.
Romanza is challenging and not easy to wear; therefore you must love it more when you do.

The opening has the same creosote-like note that I got from Soivohle's Violets & Rainwater, but thankfully here it dissipates much more quickly. What emerges is the impression of a leafy, wet garden in early spring, with the still-cold earth beneath. This is not a pretty, picture-postcard garden, but one that has been allowed to grow wild & rampant. There's a rawness here, & a slight feeling of menace, urging one to retreat to the warmth & safety indoors. The narcissus builds in strength, & remains unapologetically front & centre for the duration of this fragrance, giving off subtle but insidiously seductive wafts for hours & hours. In the heart I get something distinctly animalic, & the base is sweeter - not a vanilla sweetness, but a narcotic floral sweetness. The lasting power is superb, with traces still remaining after twenty-four hours on my skin.
This is not my usual style, being a tad too green for my taste, but it is impressive, & if you love narcissus, this one is surely a must-try!

Romanza plays Spring as the season of bittersweetness, with fresh, young stems, flowers and leaves all crushed together. Narcissus perfumes are a rarity yet Romanza bears a resemblance to Parfums de Nicolai le Temps d'une Fete. Both perfumes set narcissus's green reediness in a woody, resinous setting, albeit with different orchestration. Romanza's absinthe topnote performs a role similar to le Temps's chalky galbanum, ushering in a grassy, green-floral range centered on narcissus. In the heartnotes the two perfumes diverge, though both transition from flowers to woods. Imagine Romanza's basenotes as sitting an octave or two below le Temps.

I have no idea if Masque Milano even knew of le Temps d'une Fete, but if they are taking on de Nicolai, they're running directly into the fire. Le Temps d'Une Fete is one of Patricia de Nicolai's strongest works, a Green Floral that has earned a place next to the other heavy hitters of the genre like Guerlain Chamade, Chanel 19 and VeroProfumo Mito. Romanza's passing similarity in shape to le Temps is less important than the difference in its intent. Le Temps's fresh-scrubbed freshness is pure sunlight next to Romanza's midnight narcissus.

Romanza is based on the attraction of opposites. Bitter angelica accentuates narcissus's sweet vitality and from the very topnotes Romanza is filled with shadow and texture. The amber drydown has a growl that does not go gentle anywhere. Narcissus might be the image of spring, but the scent is the furthest thing from the stereotype of Spring prettiness. It's mucky, muddy and messy. Romanza doesn't hide narcissus's chaotic side. It liberates it, offering a beautifully defiant take on Spring. The romantic fiction of the season is a birds-cooing, hand-in-hand cartoon of courtship. Romanza reminds us that Spring is brief and there's no time for subtlety. It dispenses with the niceties and reaches a hand down the front of your pants while it looks you dead in the eye.

Masque Milano's framing of their perfumes as literary, operatic and episodic is well thought out and has led to a sumptuous style of perfumery. The perfumes are detailed and specific and I don't question the producer's/perfumer's process, but plot and narrative aren't a requirement to enjoy the perfume. Shear the story from Romanza and you're left with an exceptional perfume with a detailed, calibrated aesthetic. Romanza is a provocative perfume from a young perfumer and I'll keep my eyes peeled for future work from Christiano Canali.


The guys at Masque don't miss the chance to deliver yet another piece of great perfumery. Romanza is an incredibly complex fragrance that avoids trends and unnecessary gimmick to focus on what, to me, is a cultured style of perfumery that is sadly getting rarer and rarer.

So, don't expect something easy to like or easy to wear because Romanza is quite an imponent and ambitious composition that takes the best of two worlds and pair them together. On on side there's a somewhat canonic style of perfumery. A certain classicism that's generally inherent to officially trained perfumers while, on the other side, there's an overall artisianal vibe and (more or less) calibrated roughness that's definitely more typical of indie lines and self-taught noses. These two aspects paired together give birth to a decadent and humongous green floral which, either you'll like it or not, won't leave you indifferent.

The fragrance opens extremely green and bitter with a mix of angelica, absinth and florals such as jasmine, narcissus and hyacinth. The florals are so vivid and in your face as in the most classic compositions of the past while a rough edge and a healthy dose of "ugliness" provided by a massive amount of civet preserve the fragrance from feeling pathetically nostalgic and driving it instead towards more artisanal / indie territories. What stylistically comes to mind are some florals by Abdes Salaam as well as Papillon and Bogue but also certain post-Dior-esque florals made in Roudnitska. In this phase Romanza feels incredibly striking, adventurous and creative by continually crossing the boundaries between official perfumery and a more typically-indie style.

A classical, somewhat kind of mainstream base starts lurking in the back introducing a woody vetiver / amber combo to round everything up while paradoxically providing even more decadence. As the base takes over with time, the florals merge perfectly with the rest to turn the composition into an endless and humongous floral of immense beauty.

Now, if you're not after something that's easy to like, if you prefer to seek for beauty instead of having it slammed in your face, if you like complexity as opposed to pop, check this out. Top quality stuff all around.

Romanza is neither easy to describe nor easy to wear, which is not to say it's not brilliant (it is). It features narcissus, but instead of wrapping it in sunshiney beeswax (Ostara) or sweetening it with rose (Lumiere Noire Pour Femme), Romanza plays up all its ugly, bitter facets, resulting in a fragrance that is a real punch in the gut. Do you want to be challenged, confronted, and swept off your feet? Well, Romanza may be just the ticket.

I don't really see the connection to Oscar Wilde or Dorian Grey here. To me, this is more Wuthering Heights, a book that always wounds me with its sheer savagery. In particular, I think of when Cathy outlines the difference in her love for Linton and her love for Healthcliff thus: "My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary."

The chartreuse green opening reminds me not of absinthe but of vermouth in all its adult bitterness. It makes me shiver. I feel flooded with foreboding, like breaking a thermometer on the floor and watching the little balls of mercury scatter into every nook and cranny.

The narcissus rides up from under this slick of silvery moonshine, grabs me by the scruff of my neck, and mashes my nose down into a handful of crushed jonquils, paper whites, daffodils - whatever you call them. It's a live, crawling mass of green stems and pollen-dusted stamens. The balance of beauty and decay is just perfect here; the crushed narcissus smells like life itself, but death and corruption are already eating away at the edges.

The first part of Romanza, in particular, is intoxicating, like being bent back and properly tongue-kissed by Snow White's evil stepmother. It's arousing, but the inside of her mouth tastes bitter and too late I realize that it's poison. I end up writhing on the ground as she looks on, smiling that creepy smile of hers. Narcissus has never smelled so sinister to me before. If Ostara is a sunlit meadow, all yellows and golds, then Romanza is the midnight witching hour, a dark green velvet cloak drawn tightly around it.

The wild, ugly side of narcissus, that dark green poison facet, is supported and surrounded by three very important accords. First, a drop of either civet or a very good ambergris-like material (not Ambroxan) adds a warm, salty funk that shifts between halitosis and the natural stink of a clean beach at low tide. Orange blossom adds a honeyed indolic breeze. And when vetiver root introduces a marshy skin note, this foetid mash changes the crystalline nature of the vermouth-and-stems opening to something altogether murkier.

The second important supporting player is a pairing of violet leaf and hyacinth. Violet leaf has an astringent green, metallic character that serves the function of a knife, sharpening the outlines of the narcissus. Hyacinth adds a watery note. The overall effect of the violet leaf and hyacinth tandem is that of crushed flowers, stems, and pollen dust floating in slightly stale vase water. Oddly, the violet leaf develops a mint-like note towards the end, reminding me somewhat of the wild, green-minty forest floor feel I get from Chypre Mousse. Now I imagine Narcissus himself, lured to the lake by the cruel Nemesis, leaning down to kiss his own reflection in the water.

Finally, the most important supporting player – to my nose at least – is a damp hay and jasmine mix. The hay is probably not a distinct note but rather another facet of narcissus that I am picking up on, as narcissus can sometimes give off aromas of dry hay, jasmine, and hyacinth. The hay note in Romanza smells like hay that has recently been urinated on by horses – and having smelled this on a daily basis for years, I can tell you that this aroma is in no way unpleasant. In fact, it smells like honey, chamomile tea, warm horse, and that friendly, sun-baked smell of clean hay, all mixed together.

This part of Romanza reminds me very much of two other fragrances that are nonetheless completely unrelated to either each other or indeed to Romanza. The first is Sarrasins, where in the dry down I also pick up on a dry, sun-baked hay or chamomile tea aroma. It might be a facet of Sambac jasmine, which is the type of jasmine used in both Sarrasins and Romanza. The second fragrance that this dry hay/jasmine aspect reminds me of is Cuir Pleine Fleur. When I spray Cuir Pleine Fleur heavily on myself - so heavily that it drips down my arms and off my fingertips - this normally polite, pastel-colored leather fragrance takes on a ferociously animalic character, and smells exactly like warm, fresh pissy hay (the rotting flesh facets of hawthorn also adding to the warm, animalic impression).

Romanza is, all in all, a strange, intoxicating, and ultimately somewhat oppressive fragrance. I like that it showcases the duality inherent in cheerful flowers such as the humble daffodil or paper white – they smell bright and beautiful at first, but as soon as you pick them, they've started to die and wilt, their poisonous green plant juice staining your hands and flooding your mouth with metallic bitterness.

Anybody who likes narcissus or "corrupted" florals like Une Fleur de Cassie, Amoureuse, or Amaranthine should give Romanza a try. Narcissus oil has a calming effect on the central nervous system, but is so rich that over-exposure to it can cause fainting and dizziness, or even toxicity. That effect seems very much in keeping with the Victorian theme to the fragrance, with that idea of something that is both alluring and dangerous at the same time, like Narcissus' reflection in the pool, self-obsession, vanity, the desire to stay young forever, and so on….

Oh see now, I've managed to work my way round to Dorian Grey after all.

I have recently tried this fragrance with a sample and totally fell in love with it ! I am amazed by the way Cristiano treated the narcissus, with that mystic, animalic aura that keep evolving with time.

Definitely one of the most original scent of the year with a great quality of raw materials !

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