Biography of Olivier Mantei

Olivier Mantei © Stefan Brion

Olivier Mantei was born in Nantes in 1965.

After two years of preparatory classes and a DEA (Master of advanced studies) in modern letters at the Sorbonne, he joined the EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) to prepare a doctorate in musicology. His research dealt with the figure of the composer and the place of contemporary creation in French culture.

He taught music for two years in Casablanca as participant of the French counterpart of the Peace Corps.

On his return to Paris in 1993 he met Laurence Equilbey who asked him to develop the chamber choir accentus she had just founded. Together they professionalized its structure and made it a model in music. Olivier Mantei opened a rehearsal and recording studio in Paris. In 1998 he founded his production agency Instant Pluriel with which he launched the musical season of the Bouffes du Nord and organized La Chambre Philharmonique, a symphony orchestra conducted by Emmanuel Krivine. He produced its first concert.

At the time, most associations of classical music lacked the legal and accounting bases required by cultural companies. As a response, Instant Pluriel set up a “permanent intermittent administration”, each company paying only the actual time of a performance. Olivier Mantei also founded and presided over the FEVIS (Fédération des Ensembles Vocaux et Instrumentaux Spécialisés), the first organization of employers of occasional entertainment workers in classical music. The main goal of this organization was to defend the specificity of the structures and artists dedicated to ancient, vocal and contemporary repertoires. Today the FEVIS has become an acknowledged professional organization gathering 118 ensembles throughout France and presided over by Jacques Toubon.

Besides being administrator and producer, Olivier Mantei also became artistic agent for Alain Panès, Sonia Wieder-Atherton, David Grimal, Marc Coppey and Vanessa Wagner, among others. From his time at the EHESS he kept a taste for composers and built up closeness with Pascal Dusapin, Alexandre Desplat, Philippe Manoury and Franck Krawczyk.

During his ten years as independent producer, he devised a number of schemes with the director of the Cité de la Musique Laurent Bayle, such as the Biennale d’art vocal and concerts devoted to the Marlboro Festival.
On the initiative of the joint manager of the Bouffes du Nord theater Stéphane Lissner, Olivier Mantei met Peter Brook who offered him to run the theater and its company. He left the Bouffes in 2006 but returned in 2010 together with Olivier Poubelle with the ambition of promoting music theater and producing young talented stage directors such as Jeanne Candel, Samuel Achache, Guillaume Vincent, Jean-Christophe Meurisse and his Chiens de Navarre.

Olivier Mantei left the Bouffes du Nord in 2006 when Jérôme Deschamps invited him to participate in a contest for the direction of the Opéra Comique. Thus, in 2005 he worked at the Bouffes during the day and filled out Jérôme Deschamps’s application file at night and during the weekends. Several people, including Maryvonne de Saint Pulgent, had called for the resumption of the institution’s initial mission: maintain the nearly tercentenary genre, host Baroque works and draw from the huge repertoire of the Opéra Comique. While the company sought new inspiration, the two partners proposed to renew its identity by focusing on the repertoire and creation and by giving the theater the proper qualities to host musicians and singers in the best of conditions. Jérôme Deschamps was appointed director in 2007 with Olivier Mantei as his deputy.

The scheme included conductors William Christie, John Eliot Gardiner, Louis Langrée and Alain Altinoglu, who participated in several productions. Composers Pascal Dusapin, Georges Aperghis, Marco Stroppa, Péter Eötvös, George Benjamin wrote for the Opéra Comique. The public was faithful all along the eight years of the Deschamps era.
On Pierre Lescure’s request, Olivier Mantei participates in the planning of the auditorium of the future Cité musicale on Ile Seguin in 2014. Together with Bouygues, TF1 and Sodexo, the former director of Canal+ and the then deputy director of the Opéra Comique consider the artistic scheme for the future auditorium.  This experience gives Olivier Mantei new ideas on how to combine the demands of public service and trade reasoning. His book Public/Privé – in which he deals with all these experiences in order to draw lessons for the future – is published in 2014 by Archambaud.

In April 2014 he is appointed managing director of the Opéra Comique until 27 June 2015 by the minister of culture and communication Aurélie Filippetti. On 24 June 2015 Olivier Mantei is appointed director of our house by the president of France. The communiqué of the Ministère de la Culture states: “Particularly committed to renewing forms, Olivier Mantei will ensure that opera closely associates today’s stage directors and creators in order to make it an art form of the present.”

On becoming director of the Théâtre National de l’Opéra Comique, he gives up his tenure as director of the Bouffes du Nord theatre and yet remains its co-owner with Olivier Poubelle.
Olivier Mantei is Knight of the National Order of Merit and Officier des Arts et Lettres. He voluntarily presides over the association Les Heures Musicales de Lessay. 

7 November 2016