The Maîtrise de Toulouse was created in 2006 within the Toulouse Conservatoire, becoming the first choir school structure in South-West France. The Maîtrise provides a specialised musical education giving life to an acclaimed vocal ensemble.
In 2017 the Maîtrise de Toulouse was awarded the Prix Bettencourt for choral music, presented by the Académie de Beaux-Arts.
The choir has quickly established itself as one of the leading maîtrises in France. Its first CD, ‘Missa Brevis’ (Regent Records 340), recorded in 2010 was praised unanimously in the international musical press, including in France (5 Diapasons) and the UK. The CD was chosen as a critic’s choice amongst all the CDs reviewed in 2012 by the American Record Guide, whose reviewer stated that “there is probably nothing this choir couldn’t sing, and spectacularly well”. In 2013 the choir released its second CD, ‘Motets français’ (Regent 420) which received similar international praise and in 2015 their latest recording ‘Noël français’ received 5 Diapasons, 4 stars in BBC Music Magazine and was one of the ‘essential releases’ of the week in the Sunday Times. The choir’s latest CD, ‘Slava!’ (REG513) was released in December 2017.
The Maîtrise gives around ten concerts a year in Toulouse (principally at the Auditorium Saint Pierre des Cuisines, Basilique Saint Sernin and the Temple du Salin). The choir participates regularly in local festivals such as Toulouse les Orgues, Musiques des Lumières (Sorèze), Musiques au Pays de Gabriel Fauré (Pamiers), Les Rencontres de Musiques Anciennes (Toulouse, Odyssud) and also gives concerts throughout France, including venues such as the Chapelle Royale at Versailles,the Opéra-Comique in Paris and abroad (Spain, Germany, Italy, UK).
The choir’s repertoire is extremely rich and varied, both sacred and secular from all periods as well as first performances of new works. Particular attention is paid to French repertoire. The Maîtrise regularly collaborates with other ensembles. The choristers have recorded a CD of French fauxbourdon, ‘Polyphonies oubliées’ (AP097) with the Ensemble Gilles Binchois directed by Dominique Vellard, released in 2014, which received a Diapason Découverte and the German Critic’s Prize: Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik in the Early Music category . The choir has also performed with the Toulouse Chamber Orchestra and the Passions Orchestra (Montauban). Choristers have also performed solo roles in operatic productions at the Théâtre du Capitole of Toulouse.
The choristers (aged eleven to fifteen) are educated at the Collège Michelet in specialist classes made up also of instrumentalists and dancers, who are taught in an annexe of the Collège within the buildings of the Conservatoire. They benefit from adapted timetables, allowing them to devote more time to their artistic studies. The choristers rehearse four times a week in the Conservatoire. In addition they receive lessons in vocal technique and theory. All study an instrument and some also play in instrumental ensembles at the Conservatoire.
The choristers perform alone (upper voice repertoire) or with the other elements of the Maîtrise: the ‘juniors’ (soprano and alto ex-choristers) and the lower voices (tenors and basses who are principally ex choristers and pupils of the conservatoire singing class, with some professional support).
The Maîtrise is directed by its founder, Mark Opstad.