English National Opera’s new campaign explores masculinity and society

Rose’s latest campaign for the opera house’s 2018/2019 season features photography by the likes of Wolfgang Tillmans, Tal Silverman and Mads Perch.

Photography by Tal Silverman

London-based design studio Rose’s association with the English National Opera dates all the way back to 2015. Following Arts Council England’s decision to cut the opera house’s funding by a whacking £5 million in 2014, it underwent a shake-up under the watchful eye of new CEO Cressida Pollock and artistic director Daniel Kramer.

Rose was brought in to overhaul ENO’s branding and campaign strategy in a way that would tie in with the company’s new mission to shake off opera’s elitist reputation and make it accessible to the broadest possible audience.

Photography by Mads Perch

Since the new identity was first unveiled in 2015, the organisation has seen the average number of seats sold for productions increase from 67% during the 2016/2017 season to 72% in 2017/2018, as well as a 13% year-on-year rise of audience members under the age of 44. So far, so good.

For ENO’s new season, Rose has continued to take inspiration from the world of publishing, creating posters with a focus on strong photography and engaging synopses. This is the first season programmed by Kramer, with all nine productions addressing the themes of the patriarchy and masculinity’s role in society.

Photography by Wolfgang Tillmans

The studio has worked with a number of well-known photographers on the campaign, including Wolfgang Tillmans, whose image of a tree destroyed in a hurricane aims to present a “stark and arresting” visual representation of War Requiem, says partner Simon Elliott. “The image creates a powerful metaphor for the brutal destruction of life, and the conspicuous wounds and scars war leaves,” he adds.

Other work featured in the campaign includes a glamorous, glitter-smothered vision of The Merry Widow photographed by Mads Perch; Matt Davis’ mysterious, shadowy image of three women with their backs to the camera for the world premiere of Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel; and a hot pink, melting toy pony art directed by the studio for Salome. “The startling and unexpected image we created with Tal Silverman was deliberately intended to eschew the clichéd reference to John the Baptist’s head, and convey the key production themes of a little girl corrupted,” says Elliott.

Photography by Matt Davis

Agency: Rose
Creative Director: Simon Elliott
Art director: Ali Boschen
Designers: Ali Boschen, Abbie Edis