Olivier Py has been appointed to the artistic direction of the Théâtre du Châtelet, announced the town hall of Paris, Wednesday 1er February, confirming information from Figaro. The 57-year-old former director of the Avignon Festival will have the mission of replacing the current co-directors, Ruth Mackenzie and Thomas Lauriot dit Prévost. The appointment of a “huge artist, acclaimed all over the world” is “a guaranteed promise of audacity, joy, surprises and impertinence”reacted in a tweet the socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo.
What great news! Olivier Py, a huge artist hailed all over the world, at the head of @TheatreChatelet.… https://t.co/lZsPARGNnQ
The prestigious Parisian theater announced, at the end of August 2020, the departure of its artistic director, the British Ruth Mackenziefollowing an audit that revealed “managerial and financial problems”, according to a source familiar with the matter. The general manager, Thomas Lauriot, remained in his post until July 2022. The town hall of Paris then launched a call for applications, specifying that it was an international call.
Reduce the deficit
In addition to restoring a strong artistic identity to this jewel of the City of Paris, Olivier Py will have to take up the challenge of cleaning up finances, the deficit amounting to between 4 and 6 million euros, despite a filling rate of 95% since September, with the success in particular of the musical 42nd Street. The Châtelet receives 15 million euros from the City and generates 10 million in own revenue.
“I want to transform the Châtelet into an exceptional place, I want it to be a party, for people to say to each other that we want to go to the Châtelet, for everyone to feel welcome in this place located in a of the most beautiful places in Paris »reacted Mr. Py, who will tackle the 2024-2025 season – that of 2023-2024 being already scheduled.
“ The heritage of this house is music, operetta, musical comedy, dance, it’s an extraordinary heritage, I’m going to try to reinvent this identity and serve it. I want it to be international – with importance still given to singing in French –, multidisciplinary, popular and demanding. »
Mr. Py clarified that the “first job will be to work with the teams to reduce the deficit”claiming to be accustomed to finding “solutions even when mathematically there are none”. “I will continue to work on cultural democratization, it’s one of the things that the City of Paris expects of me. »
At the head of the Festival d’Avignon for ten years
At the same time playwright, director of theater texts but also of around thirty operas, actor, singer, author of novels and film director on occasion, Olivier Py was at the head of the Festival d’Avignon from 2014 to 2022.
Born in 1965 into a middle-class family in Grasse, in the Alpes-Maritimes, he entered the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art in 1987, then studied theology for two years. In 1998, he took the helm of the National Dramatic Center in Orléans and created remarkable plays there, such as The Joyful Apocalypse Where Requiem for Srebrenica.
In 2007, he was appointed director of the Théâtre national de l’Odéon. But, in 2011, the Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, did not renew his mandate, despite a good record, and appointed Luc Bondy to succeed him.
As a consolation prize, Frédéric Mitterrand appointed him to Avignon, where Py had already been a candidate in 2007. In September 2013, he took over the management of the festival. The dream of a lifetime for this great lover of popular theatre.
The chairman of the Châtelet board of directors, Xavier Couture, hailed the appointment of a “major figure in live performance”emphasizing the desire to give the theater “a new dynamic”.
The outcome of the nomination process is not to the taste of environmentalists, demanding allies of Anne Hidalgo, and in particular of the elected representative of their group Alice Coffin. “The choice to appoint Olivier Py at the head of the Théâtre du Châtelet is as much arbitrary as the very particular sexism of the cultural world and the political world”denounced on Twitter the one who is also a member of the board of directors of this theater.
The selection committee, of which she was a member, had chosen “two women with excellent records” – Valerie Chevalier and Sandrina Martins –, “but it was Olivier Py who was fished out, to the detriment of files deemed to be better”says the feminist activist, denouncing a “scandal”.