- 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 Philadelphia Orchestra to the Baltimore Symphony to New York City Opera to The City of London Sinfonia; 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 twelve commissions by major American orchestras to create, write and direct symphonic plays with world premieres. She is the founder and President of Symphonic Plays, a company offering orchestras ready-to-go productions of her work.
At present (July 2018) Didi is working on a new commission for The Philadelphia Orchestra and Stéphane Deneve Principal Guest Conductor for their upcoming two-week-long Barnes-Stokowski Festival in October 2018. This marks Didi's fourth commission as a playwright & stage director from the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra to create, write and stage direct new symphonic plays for their season. Her two latest symphonic plays:
- “The Artful Titans” (A Theatrical Portrait of Symphonic Proportions) will feature the legendary Leopold Stokowski (The Creator) and acclaimed Alfred C. Barnes (The Collector) in a cast of Broadway actors sharing the stage with the brilliant French-born conductor, Deneve, and the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra in a fully-staged symphonic theatrical evening celebrating the music of Debussy, Chausson, Milhaud, Poulenc, and Stravinsky as it weaves, dances and explodes with the art of Matisse, Cézanne, Renoir, Monet, Degas and Picasso living and working in Paris in concentric circles of creative genius.
- "The Artful Titans” is a series of dynamic portraits and dazzling “Impressions” of music, art and theater dramatizing the convergent/divergent lives and aesthetics of Philadelphia’s pioneering cultural icons: Leopold Stokowski and Alfred C. Barnes from 1912-1930. Each “canvas” (mise en scène) captures a moment, an arc, an essence, depicting the triumphs and trials in the lives of Stokowski and Barnes. Music infuses each portrait with color, tone, rhythm and light. Each thematic tableaux/montage paints a mini-story shimmering with character, conflict, dialogue, movement and music set against the backdrop of Paris and Philadelphia. The overall effect is a symphonic gallery of stylized “impressions” charting innovative experiments/risks taken by two relentless and ruthless visionaries: Stokowski and Barnes, building their respective empires.
- "The Artful Titans" Play One/Week One: "Philadelphia in Paris” (1912-1918) Oct. 11, 12, 13, 2018
- "The Artful Titans" Play Two/Week Two: “Paris in Philadelphia” (1920-1930) Oct. 19, 20, 21, 2018
- April 2018: The New World Symphony at the behest of guest Conductor, Stéphane Denève, a renowned French music expert, commissioned Didi Balle to write and stage direct "Ravel: A Musical Journey," which premiered at the New World Center in Miami Beach April 14, 2018.
- The symphonic play featured Stéphane Denève, The New World Symphony, acclaimed actor Scott Lowell in the role of Maurice Ravel, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano, Kelley O'Connor; Kara Duga, mezzo-soprano; Aaron Crouch, tenor. Kyu Yeon Kim, piano. Projection Designers: Clyde Scott, Michale Matamoros, Shaun Wright. Luke Kritzeck, lighting designer. Doug Merilatt, Executive VP of Artistic and Programming helmed the project, which premiered to great success.
- “Maurice Ravel – A Musical Journey” is a musical play by Playwright-Director Didi Balle about the French composer’s life and experiences, interspersed with a wide array of his compositions … is a nearly flawless fusion of musical biography and theater ... With Denéve on the New World podium, Ravel’s music was superbly articulated." South Florida Classical Review. April 16 2018.
- 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 Broadway actors playing multiple roles, 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 from Russia.
- 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: 3 Musical Plays” marks the third commission and premiere of a symphonic play created and directed by Didi Balle for The Philadelphia Orchestra. Special Thanks to Jeremy Rothman, Vice President of Artistic Planning who has artfully helmed all of Balle's commissioned works for the acclaimed Philadelphia Orchestra, which also include:
“Shostakovich: Notes For Stalin” (Maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin) dramatizes the harrowing saga of Shostakovich's struggle to compose his Fifth Symphony against a 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 of her work with the Philadelphia Orchestra: “Elements of The Earth: A Musical Adventure" was created for the POA's annual School Concert Series with six performances. The work has since been retitled: "The Secret Life of Isaac Newton." A wonderful school and family concert.
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. Full Press Release. "Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has had its share of resident composers over the years, but it's the first orchestra in the country to merge these two [music and theater] hallowed traditions by engaging a Playwright-in-Residence -- Didi Balle." Baltimore local NPR station interview. Listen HERE
Didi Balle's Symphonic Plays commissioned and premiered by Maestra Alsop and the BSO include:
“CSI: Beethoven” (Premieres: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore. Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts. Bethesda, Md. Subsequent Performances: Colorado Symphony (Denver Center for the Performing Arts). Didi was commissioned to create/direct a chamber music version of CSI: Beethoven for the University of Delaware New Music Program.
“CSI: Mozart” (Premieres: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore. Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts. Bethesda, Md.
“Analyze This: Mahler & Freud”(Premieres: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore. Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts. Bethesda, Md.)
“A Composer Fit for a King: Wagner and King Ludwig II”(Premieres: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore. Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts. Bethesda, Md.)
“Tchaikovsky: Mad But for Music” (Premieres: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore. Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts. Bethesda, Md.)
"Radio Rhapsody: A Musical Tribute to Paul Whiteman” (Alsop, Conductor) premiered at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center and has been performed by the City of London Sinfonia (Barbican Center for the Arts London. BBC Live Broadcast); Colorado Symphony (Denver Center for the Performing Arts) and the St. Louis Symphony.
Her produced 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, WNYC to NPR.
She was a recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship as an opera librettist. Other awards include the Oscar Hammerstein scholarship as a Playwright-Lyricist at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theater Program, where she received her MFA. Special Thanks to the Hammerstein Foundation for this gift of education.
Didi's written and directed many musical theater works for the stage including radio musicals, revues, music halls, one act musicals, opera and song cycles performed from Rockefeller Center's Rainbow and Stars to the Eugene O'Neill Theater in Connecticut. She also co-founded and was the Artistic Director of two avant-garde theaters in downtown Manhattan in TriBeCa and the Lower East Side.
Didi's also worked as an editor (New York Times for 13 years) and is now at work on her first historical musical novel: “Beethoven Betrayed.” She is also adapting "The Rachmaninoff Trilogy" for a theatrical production.
A native of Northern California (San Francisco), 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. symphony