CAMPAIGNS: The ENO soldiers on for art’s sake - Publicity

ENO’s decision to stage Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten (Soldiers) was risky.

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

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