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 renowned conductors including Charles Dutoit, Martyn Brabbins, Carlo Rizzi, Augustin Dumay, Yuri Simonov, Lior Shambadal, Rafael Payare, Adrian Leaper, Johannes Wildner, Evgeny Bushkov, Duncan Ward, Karl Jenkins, Mischa Damev, Alexander Anissimov, and Christoph Poppen, and more. Soloists appearing with the SOI have included Maria João Pires, Augustin Dumay, Simon O’Neill, Cédric Tiberghien, Alina Ibragimova, Barry Douglas, Angel Blue, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, Béla Fleck, Tamás Vásáry, and Lena Neudauer, amongst others.
In the decade since its inception, the Orchestra has performed around India and internationally. Tours have seen the SOI perform in the Hall of Columns, Moscow, and the Royal Opera House, Muscat. In the October 2015, the SOI opened the 2015-16 Abu Dhabi Classics season, performing at the Emirates Palace Auditorium, Abu Dhabi, and in January 2016, presented three concerts in Switzerland—at the Tonhalle, Zurich; Victoria Hall, Geneva; and the Tonhalle, St. Gallen—on invitation from the Migros Kulturprozent Classics series. Apart from the mainstays of the symphonic repertoire, the NCPA and SOI have also presented large-scale productions, including fully-staged operas—with productions of Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci. In 2017, the SOI premiered an innovative new production of La Bohème, conducted by Carlo Rizzi.
The Orchestra’s core group of musicians is resident at the NCPA all year round and forms the SOI Chamber Orchestra, which performs a regular series of concerts through the year. Additional players are recruited from a talented pool of professionals from around the world. The SOI features a growing number of Indian players, representing the finest home-grown talent, which provides a solid foundation for the future of orchestral playing in the country.
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. Chief amongst the Orchestra’s educational initiatives is the NCPA Special Music Training Programme, which brings a professional level of teaching, previously not available in India, to gifted young musicians, with the aim of growing the number of Indian musicians in the SOI in the near future.
The creation of first-class cultural institutions working towards international recognition is a vital component of India’s growing prestige on the world stage. Moreover, the SOI is fulfilling an important cultural and educational role within India. The NCPA continues to grow as a centre of musical excellence, developing international standards of professionalism among its musicians, thereby addressing the aspirations of young musicians and music-loving audiences throughout India.