It’s not only the singers who are hitting the right notes inside Leipzig’s opera house. So too is the delicate citrus-tinged aroma that hangs in the air of the grand foyer – a carefully thought out and handmade olfactory tribute to a cultural institution beloved in the east German city for over three centuries. Berlin- and Tokyo-based Aoiro Airdesign explored the building inside and out while creating the perfect scent to fill it: “We spent time with the director of the opera house and visited three performances to capture the different audiences and moods,” says Manuel Kuschnig, who met scent creator Shizuko Yoshikuni in her native Japan in 2009 and the pair soon started working together.
This “active analysis-meeting” is the usual first step for Kuschnig and Yoshikuni, who have made bespoke scents (around €8,000-€15,000) for private and public spaces such as the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo hotel and Cartier and Rolex boutiques. Each project presents the challenge of mixing essences that are complex and interesting, but that can also waft around the space without being too much of a distraction. In the case of the opera house, this translated into notes of juniper berries, lime and “shimmering bergamot”, explains Yoshikuni, who studied natural medicine in Australia, learning about aromatherapy, botanical essences and the therapeutic effects of scent. The careful alchemy of combining essences is, she says, part instinct and part skill. “Using just a small number elements can result in a scent that is very pleasant, very simple, with a fine integrity. If there are too many elements they distract each other – it’s like having too many good actors in one movie.”
The couple take inspiration from their travels around the world, but Japan and its organic essences – especially woods and citrus fruits – remain a focus. Each scent takes on average two to six months to create, with specific compositions developed as samples and presented for evaluation and adjustment along the way. With each personalised scent comes a customised method of diffusion – from sprays to scent-infused charcoal sculptures – to disperse a wash of scent, which is never overbearing but adds significantly to the atmosphere. For a quicker fix, the Hakudo Rain range – available online, from €45 for a 100ml room perfume – is a composition of pure botanical essences such as kaffir lime, vetiver and West Indian sandalwood that “will brighten and vivify a space” .