ENO’s decision to stage Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten (Soldiers) was
Once deemed ’unperformable’ by Cologne Opera because of its massive
orchestral and technical demands, Die Soldaten had never been staged
here. The company was anxious that its PR campaign did not
sensationalise the production, which contains strong language, male and
female nudity and a rape scene, but concentrated on its artistic
Together, the ENO’s press and marketing teams aimed to convince the
media, regular ENO visitors and a wider audience that Die Soldaten was
not only unmissable but that it was the kind of artistic endeavour it
should invest in. The new production fulfilled ENO’s reputation for
innovation, but the company felt it was vital that potential audiences
knew the work was ’difficult’. The challenge was to convince audiences
to come and hear a work that they might not like but that they wouldn’t
regret paying to see.
Spring 1996 saw the marketing department planning direct mail lists,
paid media advertisements and designing posters and fly posters. By July
the ENO press office was planning its strategy. Because the piece was
comparatively unknown - even to music journalists - ENO general director
Dennis Marks and conductor Elgar Howarth were accessible to journalists
throughout rehearsals. This meant that the team could sustain press
interest throughout the summer months.
The team was aware of the fine line between information and hype and
were anxious to avoid the latter. Jane Livingston, ENO’s head of press,
avoided potentially sensational coverage by phoning contacts and talking
them through the production. She followed up calls with relevant
information depending on the journalist’s particular interest.
The marketing emphasis was on direct mail and 80,000 leaflets were
direct mailed to subscribers and those on other arts lists - such as the
Advertisements were placed in a range of media and discounted tickets
were offered to music and drama students.
Die Soldaten was previewed in Opera and Opera Now in October 1996. This
was followed by blanket coverage in all of the national broadsheet
newspapers in November.
Rehearsal and preview pictures made the national newspapers including a
large spread in the Independent. Review and interview pieces appeared on
Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope, In Tune and Music Matters and on BBC2’s Late
Review. The ENO sold ’well over’ its seat target of 50 per cent.
The ENO set out to sell a lot of tickets. Yet the PR team chose to play
down the opera’s more obvious selling points and go for its uniqueness
instead. The media respected that decision and concentrated on the
piece’s rarity rather than its musical appeal - and it paid off.
The Guardian music critic Andrew Clements agrees: ’The company ran a
very sensible campaign. Most opera companies had wanted to stage Die
Soldaten ... a lot of people went because they were intrigued by what
they had read’.
Ultimately, the ENO ran an honest and brave campaign which both pulled
in audiences and ensured that it maintained its artistic
Client: English National Opera
PR Team: ENO Press Office and marketing department
Campaign: Die Soldaten (Soldiers) by Bernd Alois Zimmerman
Cost: pounds 40,000
Timescale: spring - autumn 1996