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Friday, May 23, 2008

Perfume Review: Laura Biagiotti Sotto Voce

Remember the beginning of Meet Joe Black, when a voice is saying, yes, yes, as if answering William Parrish's unasked question? I have been hearing a voice like that too, only sometimes it whispers, yes, and sometimes, no. My question is probably different from Mr. Parrish's. I want to know if it is true what they say, that you can never go home again. Because it wouldn't be the same home, the same you. Because life should be a forward movement, not retrograde. But what if you are ready to make peace with the changes? And might it not be so that sometimes going back is actually a progress?

How any of that soul-searching relates to perfume, you might justifiably ask. Well, I have been re-visiting a lot of old favorites that I never believed I would be able to love again. The last bastion standing was Sotto Voce, Laura Biagiotti's 1996 gem, now inexcusably discontinued. I used to wear it during most difficult years of my life so far, and it has become associated with so many different kinds of heartbreak that I did not dare to smell it for almost a decade. I remembered it as powdery and soft, an intimate whisper of a fragrance. Apparently it used to smell really good on me, because someone once wrote me a short poem inspired by it (the only love poem I ever got). This year I felt I was ready to meet Sotto Voce and see if it would be bearable for us to be together again.

It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful our olfactory memories are. The first sniff of Sotto Voce in about ten years felt as if "someone hit me in the gut, taking my breath away for a moment". But the flood of associations, which swept over me when I smelled the softly spicy floral top notes of the perfume, passed, miraculously not carrying me away to a tragic end, like some sort of emotional tsunami, and I was...home. The creamy heart of tuberose, ylang ylang and slightly bitter heliotrope was as charmingly warm and downy-soft as I remembered. As before, sandalwood and vanilla were blended with delicate flowers to create an effect that was not quite woody and not quite floral, making Sotto Voce a scent escaping definitions and categorizations...a scent elusive and always, quietly, present, a soft aura of warmth, a tender and sensual skin scent...It was incredibly comforting to wear it again, like coming back to loving arms after long and unnecessary separation.

However, parallels between perfume and life can only be drawn so far. You can come back to a perfume. Can you go home again?

Sotto Voce is sometimes available on eBay, for rather ridiculous sums of money.

The image is by Blaise Reutersward.

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Blogger the oblitterati said...

My friend Jen guessed (accurately) that olfactory homecoming would be Lady's Speed Stick Tropical?

Yours sounds breathtaking!

9:35 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

the oblitterati,
well, better Tropical than Shower Fresh...or Melon :-)

9:39 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Слушай только голос, который говорит: "Да". Остальное - от лукавого.

Так ты его ещё помнишь, тот стишок? )

10:25 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Конечно, помню :-)

10:28 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Home is not just a building or a city. That shifts with hours and can't be visited again. Home is a bright bubble of shared joy, a tender bruise of emotional lessons learned. And that can never be forgotten. It dims a bit as it slides further back in your memory, but it comes out, bright and fresh when you stand in the place you remember.

We can have many homes, anywhere we have a connection, experience growth, make meaning in our lives (we don't find meaning, we have to make it all) --all that is home.

So when I smelled L'Eau D'Hiver for the first time I had a knocked-back-on-my-heels sensation of deja vu and thought of Laura Biagotti's Roma, although they are nothing alike. And I had to have a bottle. L'Eau d'Hiver transcends time and space and puts me down in various places of my life as if by magic, and I'm never sorry for the ride. You can go home again, but you may not find what you remember.

11:35 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


That was beautiful.

I do ascribe memories to older scents but then again I can make new memories with new ones. I'll have to explore those older scents and experience what they bring up...

1:35 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biagotti's Roma was my first perfume bought from my first proper earnings from my first proper job after the university - I will never forget... (so much about memories :-) )

3:04 AM EDT  
Blogger Divina said...

Hi sweet Marina,

I always preferred the less emotionally charged "You cannot step twice into the same river", a beautiful quote by ancient greek philosopher Heraclitus. We indeed can never see something with the same eyes, experiences change us every day, and the waters of life's river continuously flow.

Your recount is beautiful and touching, a lovely morning read.



5:26 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Between you and QuinnCreative, I'm verklempt beyond words.


[[[[[[Marinochka and QC]]]]]]]

6:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That resonated so much with me. You should write something for us, really!

6:48 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Sotto Voce is such a perfect scent name for your thoughts in this beautiful post. It also used to be one of my favorite perfumes. *Need* to get some more.

6:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

....and then you will report here, right? :-)

6:55 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Funny how it is Biagiotti for both of us. I have a friend who used to love Laura, and it smelled great on her. *waves to T*

6:58 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! I like that quote better too :-)

7:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I love it when you are verklempt :-)

7:04 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I do see it on eBay sometimes. But when I see how much it is...and when I remember how much it was... yikes!

7:06 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it too. Sophia sdelala etot aromat. Esli ty xochesh', ja poproshu ee, mozhet ona nam smeshaet ?


8:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Martin said...

I once smelled this on a woman at work a couple of years ago. I just had to ask her what she was wearing, as for me it was a dead ringer of Guerlain's Attrape-Coeur/Guet-Apens.

9:13 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely review Marina :) I go home all the time, literally, to visit my family, and therein lies another perfume to life because those homecomings (goings) are always tinged with the life experiences and perspectives gained from the last visit. My perfume homecoming was with Versace The Dreamer. It still baffles me that that was released 12 years ago. But like I mentioned above, my new knowledge and experience of notes, etc, actually helped me enjoy it MORE, not much unlike my family holiday visits :) -Anthony

1:44 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I had no idea it was her scent!
I, konechno, hochu, hochu!

5:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

really? I should smell it with that in mind!

5:47 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I must re-visit Dreamer, I remember it as very intriguing but at that point unwearable for me.

5:49 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tmp00 and chayaruchama, thank you, I accept hugs in any denomination. "Home" is always a heartbreaker theme for me. Fragrance is a good stand-in for home.

Marina--at your service, anytime. I live to write. (Well, OK, and write to live as well.)

1:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Then whenever you have something for us...!! That would be great!

7:21 AM EDT  

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