Mark Opstad is an Anglo-French choral conductor. He founded and directs the choir La Maîtrise de Toulouse, a leading choir school, widely praised in the international music press and recipient of the Bettencourt Prize for Choral Music from the Académie des Beaux-Arts at the Institut de France.
Mark was appointed to the Choral Music department of the Toulouse Conservatoire in 2003 and in 2006 created the Maîtrise de Toulouse, the first choir school in South-West France. The choir quickly established itself as one of the leading maîtrises in France. Its numerous CD recordings (covering repertoire from the Renaissance to new commissions and sung in ten languages) have been widely praised in the international music press, including 5 Diapasons (twice), “essential release” in the Sunday Times, 4 stars in BBC Music Magazine, “coup de cœur” on France Musique radio, and 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”. The choir’s CD with the Ensemble Gilles Binchois received a Diapason Découverte and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik (Early Music category).
The Maîtrise gives around ten concerts a year in Toulouse (principally at the Auditorium Saint Pierre des Cuisines, the Basilique Saint Sernin, the Temple du Salin and the Halle aux Grains) and throughout the region, including for many festivals. The choir also gives concerts throughout France, including venues such as the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, the Opéra-Comique and also 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 and institutions (Ensemble Gilles Binchois, Orchestre du Capitole, les Sacqueboutiers, le Centre de musique baroque de Versailles…).
In addition to his work with the Maîtrise, Mark Opstad regularly directs choral courses in France. He has given organ recitals in seven European countries and as a pianist is in demand as an accompanist (including for the English Choral Experience). He is a composer and arranger of choral music.
Mark began his musical training as a chorister, and Head Chorister at Bristol Cathedral and Music Scholar at Bristol Cathedral School. He studied Music at Oxford University where he was Organ Scholar of Balliol College, organising the choir’s first foreign tour to sing at Notre Dame in Paris. He was also a cellist in the Oxford Sinfonietta. On leaving Oxford Mark was recipient of a Coolidge Award, allowing him to travel the United States for two months. He continued his studies at Cambridge University where he was Assistant Organist of Clare College. Mark studied the organ with David Sanger and the piano with Raymond Fischer.
On leaving Cambridge Mark was awarded an Entente Cordiale Scholarship from the British and French governments allowing him to continue his musical studies in France. He studied the organ with Lynne Davis at the Caen Conservatoire (Médaille d’Or). It was in Caen that Mark first became involved with the revival of French choir schools. He was assistant to the director of the Maîtrise de Caen for two years, assisting with the training of the choristers and accompanist (organ and piano) for the choir’s weekly concert. This lead to his appointment at Toulouse.