At the heart of the Maitrise Populaire de l’Opéra Comique

In her tower block on the Ivry housing estate, Ramatoulaye sings… an opera in German. She’ll soon be singing it on the stage of the Opéra Comique among the professionals. Neither she nor her family could have imagined it. But Ramatoulaye has joined the Maîtrise Populaire de l’Opéra Comique. This recent program, the only one of its kind in France, breaks the mould and draws some of its students from working-class neighborhoods in the Ile-de-France region. The 120 students, aged 9 to 25, take part in a “music-study” program: their entire schooling takes place in a partner public secondary school, while they receive musical training at the Opéra Comique. And they are integrated into the official performances of Louis XIV’s venerable institution. They grow up on stage, and at the same time become enlightened citizens. The ultimate goal of their apprenticeship is not necessarily a profession, but the shared adventure of spending several years with a very large, unchosen sibling group. As a school of excellence, the Maitrise de l’Opéra Comique is keen to see its students as at ease on the national stage as they are in the stadium. This is why the Maîtrise will open all the Rugby matches of the World Cup (France, end 2024), with the national anthems of countries around the world.

This work was produced as part of the major national commission “Radioscopie de la France: a look at a country in the throes of a health crisis”, financed by the French Ministry of Culture and piloted by the French National Library.


Jérômine Derigny photojournalist