DIDI BALLE's credits as a playwright and stage director include numerous commissions, broadcasts and staged productions of her work spanning Symphonic Plays™, radio musicals, plays, musical theater, variety shows, song cycles and opera. Didi's shows have been produced and performed by companies and orchestras from The Baltimore Symphony to New York City Opera to The Manhattan Rhythm Kings; in venues from Lincoln Center to Verizon Symphony Hall to the Barbican Center for the Arts in London, with performances broadcast live from the BBC to NPR.
Didi is the creator of a new genre of writing with her plays for actors and orchestras called: Symphonic Plays™. Since 2008 she’s received nine commissions by American orchestras to create, write and direct symphonic plays.
In April 2017 The Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned and premiered "The Rachmaninoff Trilogy: 3 Musical Plays” for their acclaimed Rachmaninoff Festival with Stéphane Denève, Conductor. Didi Balle's three musical plays with a cast of five actors premiered over three nights at The Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall. Play One: "The Breakthrough" set in Russia 1900 dramatizes the psychological hurdles that undermined and ultimately freed 27-year old Sergei Rachmaninoff to write his Second Piano Concerto. Play Two: "Musician in Exile" reveals how Rachmaninoff came to revise his First Piano Concerto in a Moscow apartment during the 1917 Revolution, and his subsequent escape to Scandinavia with his family. Play Three: "A Musical Marriage in Philadelphia" explores the extraordinary thirty-year relationship between Rachmaninoff and the Philadelphia Orchestra and its visionary Conductors Leopold Stokowski, and later, Eugene Ormandy.
"The Rachmaninoff Trilogy" marks the third commission and premiere of a symphonic play written and directed by Didi Balle for The Philadelphia Orchestra. “Shostakovich: Notes For Stalin” (Maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin) dramatizes the harrowing saga of Shostakovich's struggle to compose his Fifth Symphony against a persistent life-threatening campaign by Stalin and his henchmen denouncing the young composer as "an enemy of the state" and a "formalist." The symphonic play culminates in an electrifying performance of his Fifth Symphony. Her first commission and premiere with the POA: “Elements of The Earth: A Musical Adventure" (POA annual School Concert Series).
Maestro Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) first championed Balle’s work and named her the first-ever “Playwright-in-Residence” with a symphony orchestra. Read more: Full Press Release.
Her symphonic plays commissioned and premiered by Maestra Alsop and the BSO include:
“Analyze This: Mahler & Freud”
“A Composer Fit for a King: Wagner and King Ludwig II”
“Tchaikovsky: Mad But for Music”
"Radio Rhapsody: A Musical Tribute to Paul Whiteman” (Alsop, Conductor) premiered at Lincoln Center and has been performed by the City of London Sinfonia at the Barbican Center for the Arts London; Colorado Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony.
Her work as a playwright, lyricist and librettist spans song cycles (“Penelope, A Song Cycle” 92nd St. Y New Music Series), opera (New York City Opera workshop), musical theater, radio musicals (co-wrote w/Garrison Keillor weekly musical “The Story of Gloria: A Young Woman of Manhattan” at BAM and The Lamb’s Theater) with live broadcasts of her work from BBC to NPR. Recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship as a librettist. Eons ago: Awarded the Oscar Hammerstein scholarship as a Playwright-Lyricist at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theater Program. She’s worked as a journalist, editor (New York Times for 13 years) and is at work on her first historical musical novel: “Beethoven Betrayed.”
A native of Northern California, Didi relocated her home and writing studio from the east coast to a small town in the Napa Valley where she resides with Oscar and Sasha, two insanely smart standard poodles who'd like a show of their own.
Photo Credit: The banner photograph above is of Amelita Galli Curci, a famous early 20th-century Italian-born coloratura.