“a world-class ensemble”
- The Spectator
The Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), based at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai, is India’s first and only professional orchestra. It was founded in 2006 by NCPA Chairman Khushroo N. Suntook and internationally-renowned violin virtuoso Marat Bisengaliev, who serves as the Orchestra’s Music Director. Zane Dalal was appointed Associate Music Director of the SOI in September 2014, following serving seven years as Resident Conductor.
The SOI has worked with such renowned conductors as Carlo Rizzi, Martyn Brabbins, Charles Dutoit, Yuri Simonov, Jacek Kaspszyk, Lior Shambadal, Rafael Payare, Richard Farnes, Laurent Petitgirard, Alpesh Chauhan, Duncan Ward, Karl Jenkins, Mischa Damev, Evgeny Bushkov, Alexander Lazarev, Christoph Poppen, and more. Soloists appearing with the SOI have included Maria João Pires, Augustin Dumay, Simon O’Neill, Cédric Tiberghien, Alina Ibragimova, Stephen Hough, Stephen Kovacevich, Barry Douglas, Benjamin Grosvenor, Pavel Kolesnikov, Angel Blue, Zakir Hussain, Béla Fleck, Tamás Vásáry, and Lena Neudauer, amongst others.
International tours have seen the SOI perform in the Hall of Columns, Moscow; the Royal Opera House, Muscat; and the Emirates Palace Auditorium, Abu Dhabi. In January 2016, the SOI presented three sold-out concerts in Switzerland—at the Tonhalle, Zurich; Victoria Hall, Geneva; and the Tonhalle, St. Gallen—on invitation from the Migros Kulturprozent Classics series. Le Temps
hailed “the commitment, the enthusiasm, and the discipline of this ensemble, which played with ferocious energy and appetite.” In February 2019, the SOI embarked on a six-concert tour to the United Kingdom, performing to delighted audiences in prestigious venues in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Guildford, and Edinburgh, and garnering rave reviews. In November 2023, the SOI will return to the UK to perform nine concerts across eight cities.
Apart from the mainstays of the symphonic repertoire, the NCPA and SOI have also presented large-scale productions, including fully-staged opera productions of Tosca, Cavalleria rusitcana/Pagliacci,
and Madama Butterfly
. In 2017, the SOI premiered a highly-acclaimed, innovative new production of La Bohème,
conducted by Carlo Rizzi,
featuring an international star cast, which was streamed globally on OperaVision. Most recently, a fully-staged production of Die Fledermaus
was presented in 2022, in collaboration with the Hungarian State Opera.
The Orchestra’s core group of musicians is resident at the NCPA all year round and forms the SOI Chamber Orchestra. Additional players are recruited from a talented pool of professionals from around the world. The SOI Chamber Orchestra performs a regular series of concerts through the year at the NCPA and at other venues around Mumbai and India. A monthly concert series at Prithvi Theatre in Juhu, the first regular music series in the venue, has been running for close to a decade. National tours have seen the SOI Chamber Orchestra perform in Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, and Pune, amongst other cities.
The Orchestra places great emphasis on education and many of the SOI musicians are also teachers, working to develop the musical potential amongst young people in India. Musicians of the SOI conduct workshops, masterclasses and teacher-training programmes in various cities and a traineeship programme nurtures the talent of young musicians from around the country. Chief amongst the Orchestra’s educational initiatives is the SOI Music Academy which brings a professional level of teaching, previously not available in India, to gifted young musicians. Several graduates of the Academy are now pursuing music further in leading conservatories around the world and can often be heard performing as part of the SOI. Together, these programmes aim to raise the standard of Western classical music performance in India and grow the number of Indian musicians in the SOI.