- 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 commissioned, performed and premiered 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 Stéphane Denève, The New World Symphony
Didi is the creator of a new genre of writing with her plays for actors, conductors 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 Didi Balle is preparing to stage direct a premiere (a new version) of her symphonic play "RAVEL A Musical Journey from Paris to Tangier" with Music Director Stéphane Deneve, newly appointed Principal Conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra to be preformed at Powell Hall on May 1, 2020. Featuring world-renowned pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano. And Scott Lowell as Maurice Ravel.
RAVEL A Musical Journey was originally commissioned and premiered by Conductor Stéphane Denève and The New World Symphony. New World Center. Miami Beach. Spring 2018. "... a nearly flawless fusion of musical biography and theater ..."
Didi was commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra and Stéphane Deneve Principal Guest Conductor to create, write and direct two original concert-length Symphonic Plays, which premiered (six concert performances) to great success during the two-week-long Barnes-Stokowski Festival October 2018. These premieres marked Didi's fourth commission as a playwright & stage director from the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra to create and direct new symphonic plays for their season. Thanks to the dramatic eye of Jeremy Rothman, Vice President of Artistic and Planning, and to Monsieur Denève who conceived of the festival subject/concept:
- “The Artful Titans” Play I: "Philadelphia in Paris 1912-1920" featured the legendary Leopold Stokowski (The Creator) and acclaimed Alfred C. Barnes (The Collector) brought to life with a cast of Broadway actors sharing the stage with the brilliant French-born conductor, Denève, and the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra in a fully-staged symphonic play dramatizing the convergent/divergent lives, ambitions and aesthetics of Philadelphia’s pioneering cultural icons: Leopold Stokowski and Alfred C. Barnes. Play 1 opens in 1912 with Stokowski taking the helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra, while Barnes dispatches an emissary to Paris to purchase contemporary art for his burgeoning collection. The dramatic arc explodes with the music of Debussy, Chausson, Milhaud, Poulenc, and Stravinsky as it weaves, dances and shimmers 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" Play II: "Paris in Philadelphia 1920-1930” is a series of dynamic portraits and dazzling “Impressions” of music, art and theater exploring the innovative experiments and artistic risks taken by two relentless and ruthless visionaries: Stokowski and Barnes while building their respective empires from 1920-1930. 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 theatrical portrait with color, tone, rhythm and light. Each thematic tableaux/montage bristles with character, conflict, dialogue, infused with music set against the backdrop of Paris and Philadelphia. A symphonic gallery of stylized “impressions” culminating in a dramatic portrayal of two visionaries navigating the uncharted territories of contemporary music and art.
- "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 create, write and stage direct a new symphonic play "Ravel: A Musical Journey" which premiered at the New World Center in Miami Beach April 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. Dona Granata, Costume Designer. Doug Merilatt, Executive VP Artistic 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 week-long 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 to America where he learned his beloved home/villa had been burned to the ground. In America he reinvented himself as the world's leading concert pianist and continued to compose.
- 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 premieres of a new symphonic play(s) created, written and directed by Didi Balle for The Philadelphia Orchestra. Special Thanks to Jeremy Rothman, Vice President of Artistic and 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, Music Director and Principal Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra). This symphonic play written and directed by Didi Balle vividly brings to life with music and theater the harrowing saga of Shostakovich's struggle to compose his Fifth Symphony against terrifying odds: A life-threatening campaign led by Stalin and his henchmen bent on destroying the famous young composer unless he obeys Stalin's musical whims. Denounced by Russian authorities as "an enemy of the state" and a "formalist," Shostakovich and his family members are threatened to be arrested and sent to the prison work camps in Siberia if he does not create a Russian symphony in perfect keeping with Stalin's dictates of what real Russian music should sound like. The symphonic play culminates in an electrifying performance of his Fifth Symphony in its totality.
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 for two consecutive years 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.