Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse



About Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse

The Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse is among France's most visible orchestral ensembles internationally and was named one of France's three best orchestras by the Paris newspaper Le Figaro. Originally established as the opera orchestra of the Théâtre du Capitole, the group continues to fulfill that function. The Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse dates back to the early 19th century when it was organized to accompany operas and theatrical presentations at the Théâtre du Capitole (the "Capitole" is the Toulouse city hall). Even before World War II, the orchestra had top-notch conductors: André Cluytens held the baton beginning in 1932, and longtime Lyric Opera of Chicago conductor Georges Prêtre led the group from 1951 to 1955. The orchestra remained mostly associated with opera, however, until the appointment of Michel Plasson as music director in 1968. Plasson changed the orchestra in many ways, introducing symphonic concerts (the group moved in 1974 into the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, a former wheat market and boxing arena, for these), raising musical standards, and instituting a touring program that rapidly gained international attention. Plasson generally programmed French music, including many little-known works, but he also led the orchestra in complete cycles of Beethoven's symphonies and piano concertos. In 1980, the orchestra joined France's roster of "national" ensembles, and that term was added to its name. The orchestra during this period also, exceptionally among French ensembles, attracted substantial corporate support from a consortium using the acronym "AÏDA"; this included the aircraft manufacturer Airbus. Top-flight opera singers, including Teresa Berganza, José Carreras, and Jessye Norman, graced the Capitole stage during Plasson's tenure, and the career of star soprano Natalie Dessay began when she sang in the orchestra's associated choir. Plasson stepped down in 2003 amid disputes with the city of Toulouse, and in 2005, he was replaced by Tugan Sokhiev, who became principal guest conductor at first, and music director and principal conductor in 2008. Sokhiev broadened the orchestra's repertory and carried forward its broadcast activities and enthusiastic children's programming. The orchestra became a common presence at French summer festivals. Sokhiev also continued the orchestra's vigorous recording program, which began under Plasson; the orchestra recorded for EMI and moved to the Naïve label for a recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64, in 2011. In 2020, the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse released a recording of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65, on the Warner Classics label. ~ James Manheim

Toulouse, France

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