Digital and opera house : Communication director of Opera de Bordeaux talks about its strategy

Cécile OUDEYER : directrice du Développement et de la Communication de l'ONB : Hello Cécile OUDEYER ! The interview you’have granted to is an honour !  Before to proceed to the interview let me remind to our fellow readers you are Director in charge of Development and communication at Bordeaux National Opera . Before to join ONB, you had worked in museums for years. Notably you worked in Louvre Museum for 8 years in charge of audience development , communication and promotion. You’ve been managing development and communication of Opéra Nation de Bordeaux for more than a year. Can you present us this great national theatre ?

Cécile OUDEYER : The Opéra National de Bordeaux is a public institution made of 3 artistic pilarsThierry Fouquet is the director of the Opera de Bordeaux since 1996

Opéra National de Bordeaux : 3 institutions

The first part is the Orchestre National de Bordeaux Aquitaine (ONBA) under the direction of Paul Daniel. The orchestra  gathers 106 musicians.

Paul Daniel lors d'une répétition au Nouvel Auditorium de l'ONBA ©F.Desmesure

Paul Daniel during a rehearsal in the New Auditorium of ONBA ©F.Desmesure

The second part is Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux (under the direction of Charles Judes). The Ballet is a ensemble dedicated to the danse and composed of 40 dancers. The third artistic pilar of ONB is Chœur de l’Opéra de Bordeaux where 40 chorists are. You can see than ONB has bee employing about 200 permanent artists.

Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux © S. Colomyes
Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux © S. Colomyes

On top of that, there is the Technical Department which gathers several workshops totalling more than 100 technicians : costumers, accessorists, lighting designers, etc…These workshops represent a true memory of know-how and tradition of performing arts. That enables ONB like the Opera de Paris, to be a fully integrated opera house, able to set global production from the settings to the chorus. The Opéra National de Bordeaux can now rely on 2 auditoriums  : first there is the Grand théâtre, a magnificient italian-style theatre.

Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

And there is the brandnew Auditorium where the orchestra can develop its repertoire. Before the construction of this new modern auditorium, the orchestra had to perform in the Sport Arena of Bordeaux and faced repertoire limitations inherent to this kind of building.

Journée ‘Portes Ouvertes’ au Nouvel Auditorium de l’ONBA © GaëlleHamalian-Testud
open house day in the new Auditorium of ONBA © GaëlleHamalian-Testud : The Opéra de Bordeaux has been granted the label of ‘National opéra, what does it mean concretely ?
Cécile OUDEYER : Yes, its true we belong to the small club (5 only:) of French opera houses to enjoy this label. That means we have to carry out a 5-year contract setting out the shared objectives and resource. We have to respect a very precise specifications set up with the Ministry of Culture, the Aquitaine Region and the City of Bordeaux.  We have for instance to democratise des so-called ‘art music’ (opera, classical music). We have to make them more accessible to new audiences and peticularly to young publics . We have a strong regional action by offering top-of-the notch productions in Aquitaine region. So we regularly tour in department composing the Region. We aim at breaking even by increasing our own-resources while making it possible for the largest audience possible to go to concert : we want full auditoriums ok but also auditoriums with diverse audiences. That’s why we also conduct an audiovisual policy to foster accessibility to opera and classical music. : Is ONB active on social networks or does it provide digital services ?
Cécile OUDEYER : Yes, we are active on several social network such as Youtube, Facebook or Twitter  and more recently on Google + and Flickr

présence de l'ONB sur les réseaux sociaux
ONB is active on social networks
application ONB sur iOS

Our  iOS mobile application  is available since 2012. A new version will be launched in April and will adress both iOS and Android platforms. To adress younger audiences, we have to go mobile ! We ve planned to revamp our Internet Site ( :  What are the tools and levers ONB used to carry out its strategy ?
Cécile OUDEYER : We hired in 2013  one digital communication manager. Digital communication used to be outsourced to our Press Agency. Now the department of development and communication is a 10-person team, in which there are 3 persons dedicated to communication & promotion. A lot of communication actions have been achieved since end 2013 (Flicker, Google+). We got used to focus on both print communication and content and much less on promotion and communication. We look for new ways to communication on digital media. Now we can rely on digital levers  to communicate and promote our programmation. We can definitively better target young audience with digital media.

programme saison 2013-14

We’ve been working of the brochure for the new 2014-2015 season. The print brochure remains the first communication lever of an opera house. We try to develop more and more connections toward social medias for instance by introducing # tags. We have though to find a balance between youth appealing social media and our regular and older audience. Our team has been benchmarking what is been done in other theaters in France and overseas (London, Vienna, Barcelona). We have a particular focus on what is carried out by the English National Opera which is very performent regarding social networks. It gives inspiration, but we have to adapt and not only adopt ! We’ve got our particularities in Bordeaux for instance we have been relying on loyal audience for years. Besides regular digital and mobile medias, we have been levering special marketing campaign to adresss young generarion, like we have done it for a Wagner concert held in fall 2013; : Could you give additional information about this gen Z targeting communication event ? 
Cécile OUDEYER : We launched an original and funny communication campaign aiming at pulling 16-to-26 year-old audience into our auditoriums. 5000 mobile phone holders were targeted. They were sent a texto presenting a short video on Wagner concert carried out by a communication agency. This short clip teased about Facebook & the ONB Website. Opera de Bordeaux grant you with an exclusive concert for only 2 €, less the price of a burger ! The very maestro Paul Daniel had a active role in the campaign !

Teaser Vidéo du concert Wagner de L'ONBA
Teaser Video of Wagner concert performed by ONBA

With exclusive and evenemential content, accessible prices one can succeed in appealing to the young. We were very successful with this campaign. We had to refuse 300 persons because the 1440-seat auditorium was full to bursting ! We clearly succeeded in sensibilising a population that was not particularly interested in classical music. Return in terms of image was also excellent, we managed to rejuvenate the way people imagine what could be the communication of an opera house. The buzz was real ! Yet such a communication campaign is not free but it had a huge impact. After that, a young Auditorium pass was launched « Young Auditorium pass (pass Jeunes Auditorium) » It aimed at 16-26-year-old listeners and was based on the unlimited movies pass. The Young auditorium costs only 10 € a month and give free access to all the performance held in the auditorium! This pass was a great success ! : That is a bold and innovative operation indeed !
Cécile OUDEYER : Yes bold is the right word. It was not that easy at the beginning because some insiders weren’t very supportive of such a policy. They were annoyed by the fact that such a low tarif (2 € for a concert) might be deprecating. They also feared that the young would not come because this special concert was performed at the beginning of the academic year. Finely the operation was successful and made everybody was enthusiastic. Regarding new media, we have to go beyond the tools and interfaces and carry out internal working in order to make insiders support to our strategy. First embassadors of Opera de Bordeaux are insiders, artists-in-resident and guest artists . Ils constituent  de véritables relais prescripteurs complémentaires et quelquefois plus puissants que la communication institutionnelle en tant que telle ! : Image does matter for young audience but also for other segmens of customers. Could you precise the audiovisual side of your communication strategy ?
Cécile OUDEYER : We’ve been developping  audiovisual projects such as outdoor screenings. At the end of each season (End of June or July), we get used to live broadcast a ballet on the Comedy Square. This ballet live has become a event Bordeaux dwellers expect eagerly. At the end of that performance, dancers leave the opera scene to  bow also outside !

retransmission de Ballet en direct live sur la place de La Comédie
broadcast of a Ballet live from The Comedy Square

All audiovisual projects clearly allow to feed the policy of diversification of audiences. For many, this is one of the only contact with the world of classical music or opera. People who attend these outdoor concerts will be uninhibited in family group and do not feel the pressure to have a return on investment approach on their cultural expense. In Opera de Boedeaux, we have viewers who is open to art proposal, however, we must accompany them, to give them the keys to understanding. We celebrated on 26 September 2013 the season opening of the brand new auditorium and the arrival of the new music director of the ONBA, with a Mahler concert broadcast on a giant screen and live up Victory popular area of ​​Bordeaux. This allowed to communicate about what is a theatre dedicated to symphonic music and what is a symphony orchestra.

In addition of that event, we are also in a phase of setting partnerships with Mezzo (eg Pneuma, the next Bordeaux creation of Carolyn Carlson), with Radio Classique and France Music, and we are in discussion with France Television. For the 14-15 season, we’ve been building a nationwide broadcast programme in cinemas. Cinema channel is quite expensive, therefore it will be punctual and coupled with a finer work with the Aquitaine independent cinemas. These independants cinemas networks should   broadcast some performances off-line to students (in connection with the schools of Aquitaine). In this context, meetings with artists and directors will enhance the educational scope and arts education project. Latest attendance figures of the Met show that there may be a cannibalization effect fostered by precisely live cinema broadcasts. More and more people trade-off between new experience and quality offered by the live cinema, and evenings in venues where you can be very misplaced if you have a constrained budget. Is there such a phenomenon in Bordeaux?
Cécile Oudeyer: To date, we’ve been experiencing a good seat-occupancy rate  (> 90%). Of course, it is always more difficult to fill the auditorium with creations however as for  repertoire programmation, results are just excellent. We are the sole opera house in the region. The other closest operas are Toulouse and Limoges. And we are fortunate to have a number of faithful viewers for whom it is still important to get out at the Grand Theatre socio-culturally speaking. At this time, we do not really feel the effects of these  live programmation from the Met nor from the Opera de Paris or the Wiener Staatsoper. You seem to have well jumped on the social media bandwagon, do you intend to go further by example levering crowdsourcing or crowdfunding in the daily life of Opera National de Bordeaux ?

Cécile Oudeyer: This is yet to be explored including for instance our Members association with Friends of the Opéra National de Bordeaux, Arpeggio, but we already tested the crowdfunding not on production but on equipment. In the new auditorium had to equip musicians 110 chairs. We offered to those who wanted to sponsor a chair. This allowed them to choose to write their name or what they wanted on the chair. ¾ chairs were sponsored and that!
Cécile OUDEYER :C’est encore à explorer notamment avec notre association d’Amis de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux, Arpeggio, mais nous avons déjà testé le crowdfunding non pas sur des productions mais sur de l’équipement. Dans le nouvel auditorium il fallait équiper les musiciens de 110 chaises. Nous avons proposé aux personnes qui le désiraient de parrainer une chaise. Cela leur permettait  de choisir d’y inscrire leur nom ou ce qu’ils voulaient sur la chaise.  Les ¾ des chaises ont été ainsi parrainées de la sorte!

Les chaises parrainees de l'Auditorium de Bordeaux

Madame OUDEYER, I thank you so much for having opened to us the doors of the Opéra de Bordeaux ! Have a good season and may all your projects be successful !

NB : this article is the English translation of the interview granted by Cecile OUDEYER to in March 2014

Licence Creative Commons “Cécile OUDEYER : directrice du Développement et de la Communication de l’ONB” by Cécile OUDEYER & Ramzi SAIDANI is under terms and conditions of the licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 France

About Ramzi SAIDANI

Ramzi SAIDANI is fond of classical music (abooove all opera) and new technologies. He particularly likes digital, the web, Puccini, Massenet, Domingo, Alagna, Netrebko & Gruberova (Grubi for the closest friends :). He has been working as digital marketer and strategy consultant for 15 years. He has funded Lanoramax a consulting company focused on cultural industries that helps the start-ups (of which Sonic Solveig) and the incumbent musical institutions to achieve their digital transformation and strategies. He has created and animated the Meet-up Music and Digital (#MusikNum) in the CentQuatre Paris since septembre 2016. Ramzi is a also a tenor. He has studied lyric singing with Pierre VANHOENACKERE in Tourcoing Conservatory and Robert Expert and Sonia Morgavi in Bobigny. He is also president of the Association Cavatine et Rondo (dedicated to lyrical music promotion) and he wrote a book of short stories ”Nouvelles Russes”, in which of course music play a major role :)

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