Aix en Provence


In the framework of the European project Orfeo & Majnun, the Festival d’Aix offers a series of interviews with individual patrons and companies who have chosen to support this festive and participative project. Meeting with Sabine Masquelier, co-founder of the Chœur à l’ouvrage Endowment.

The Chœur à l’ouvrage Endowment has made it its mission to support initiatives allowing persons from different backgrounds to meet around artistic and cultural practices. The objective is thus to give access to art and culture to the largest number of people possible and, in particular, to those who are the most distant from them; to promote true encounters between people coming from different backgrounds, based on regular exchange aiming at collective creation; and to create the conditions for high quality artistic practice: professionalism on the part of the performers and inscription of the programmes in a long-term perspective.

The Chœur à l’ouvrage Endowment is principally dedicated to supporting projects that promote long-term social mixing. Why have you chosen this axis for your support?

Our endowment supports projects, more precisely, that, beyond providing access to a demanding artistic or cultural experience, promote social mixing, but also generational and geographic mixing with respect to handicap, etc.
We believe that one way to “do choir” is, in effect, to get down to work together, to meet the challenges involved, to pass through the difficulties, the doubts, the discouragement, and, then, finally, to experience together the exceptional moments of joy, pride, and emotion in which the artistic adventure has culminated.
For me, the perfect example is the participatory opera, The Monster of the Maze, which was performed in July 2015 as part of the Festival and which brought together more than 300 young and not-so-young amateur artists from all the neighbourhoods of Aix, Marseille and the surrounding areas, who partnered with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. While the audience was giving them a standing ovation, I thought of the path that each one of them had travelled over the whole course of the year and of the pride and exultation that lit up the choir that they had become.

The opera Orfeo & Majnun is a multicultural project at several levels: the European and Mediterranean  dimension (interlacing of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and of the Arab legend of Laylâ and Majnûn, project-related events in 7 other countries), diversity of languages (French, English and Arabic)... Was this criterion decisive for your support?

Orfeo & Majnun is emblematic of the approach that Bernard Foccroulle and his team have been pursuing for years: building bridges between people, neighbourhoods, countries, cultures… and, in particular, between the shores of the Mediterranean. Building bridges and letting the music and its performers bring together in shared emotion those who were never supposed to meet, if one hewed to the established order. So, we are, of course, especially happy to participate in this particular adventure: ambitious, generous, open to all the winds of curiosity and the discovery of the other.

The participatory opera Orfeo & Majnun was created with the desire to put together a choir of 150 amateurs performers who are representative of the local population. Supported by the educational and socio-artistic teams of the Festival d’Aix and by an orchestra that is also composed in part of amateur artists, the choir members will travel on their path and metamorphize together, in order to give rise to a grand artistic and civil parade. How will this experience transform its beneficiaries in the long-run?

One will have, of course, to ask them. While knowing that the effects of such an experience are not all immediately felt and that it is sometimes difficult to put words on the inner revolution that it can provoke. One thing is certain: they will have had unique experiences and participated in a prestigious creation in contact with great artists. From the first exchange of glances to the enthusiasm and jubilation at the moment of the final bow, it will have been a fantastic individual and collective adventure. These are unforgettable moments: the kind that can give direction to a whole life.

Orfeo & Majnun is a participatory  opera that takes place in 3 phases: two artistic and festive urban parades, one in Arles on 8 April and one in Aix on 24 June, and an open air performance of the opera on 8 July on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix. You followed the work in Arles very closely, right up to its payoff on 8 April. What can you tell us about this first highpoint?

On that day, even the gods let themselves be carried away by the surrounding excitement, starting from their small miracle of stopping the rain during exactly the time of the parade.  We applaud the remarkable organisational work done by the teams of Festival Les Suds and the months of demanding preparation of each of the participating groups that were brought together by the Passerelles service of the Festival d’Aix, Festival Les Suds and the Conservatory of the Pays d’Arles. Coming from all over the region, of all different ages, from different neighbourhoods, structures, and disciplines, a thousand strong wandered through the streets, inspired by the contagious enthusiasm of Raphaël Imbert that spread from one end of this immense snake to the other, winning over the adoring public with ease. Led by the young hip-hop artists from Barriol, they played, sang, danced, and slammed poetry. Roger Titley’s animals danced and flew among the musicians and the crowd. Placed under the sign of love, it was beautiful and joyous, through little streets and squares, from the Ancient arena to the Roman theatre, from the Boulevard des Lices to the Place de la République. It was the power of art: capable of bringing together and delighting thousands of people from all different backgrounds. The same cohesiveness, the same energy are at work for the following acts: in Aix and then in seven other European countries. It is a magnificent initiative: to be followed and pursued...

This summer, take part in the "Orfeo & Majnun" urban walkabout on June 24th and discover the participative opera on July 8th. Two events free and open for everyone on the Cours Mirabeau.


With the support of Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, Fonds Chœur à l'ouvrage, Fondation d'entreprise Total, The Eloise Susanna Gale Foundation

Follow the creative process of Orfeo & Majnun on

Credit photo : Cécile Robert