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The Arts

Salon Seance explores music, poetry of Britten, Auden

Musician, actor, playwright, and historian come together at Yellow Barn

Tickets are $20 ($17 for seniors, $10 for students), and are available at and by phone at 802-387-6637. Tickets are also available at the door, but reservations are encouraged.

PUTNEY—Yellow Barn welcomes eight newcomers for an exploration of the personal relationship between British composer Benjamin Britten and poet W.H. Auden.

String quartet musicians Mari Lee, Brandon Garbot, Ayane Kozasa, and Mihai Marica, and pianist Julia Hamos, will be joined by actor Philip Stoddard, scholar Simon Lee, and renowned Scandinavian film director Mikael Södersten for Salon Séance, an immersive and interdisciplinary experience. Their Artist Residency will culminate with a semi-staged performance at Next Stage on Saturday, Feb. 23.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m., lasts approximately 70 minutes, and concludes with a discussion.

Salon Séance has won several awards, including the Britten Pears Foundation’s Britten Award.

Creators Mari Lee and Simon Lee write: “Each of our projects focuses on a single composer who has left a considerable amount of writing besides their musical creations. The historian is responsible for the scholarly research and the musicians for the musical product of the composer.”

Britten and Auden were important figures in 20th-century British culture. Auden moved to the U.S. in 1939; Britten followed three months later. Their creative collaboration continued in the U.S. with an operetta, Paul Bunyan (1941). Britten set Auden’s libretto, based on the American folktale, to music incorporating American folk songs and styles. They had a falling out after seven years of close friendship.

Mari Lee will be joined by violinist Brandon Garbot, violist Ayane Kozasa, cellist Mihai Marica, and pianist Julia Hamos to perform chamber works by Britten. Actor Philip Stoddard will portray the composer in the Feb. 23 performance directed by Södersten. The script was written by playwright Noelle P. Wilson.

Mari Lee has performed extensively in such prominent venues as the South Bank Centre, Wigmore Hall, Le Festival de Radio France Montpellier, Menuhin Festival Gstaad, and Carnegie Hall. Lee is a recent alumna of Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, a program that combines performing, professional development, entrepreneurship, and community outreach.

Simon Lee is an independent researcher and translator based in Tokyo. His current research is on the relationship between debt, guilt, and war. Lee was recently invited to give a presentation at an international conference on the work of the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, held at University of Antwerp.

Stoddard earned a bachelor of music from Juilliard’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts and his MFA in acting from Juilliard’s Drama Division, making him the first artist in school history to attend two different divisions. Favorite credits include the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Chautauqua Institute, the title role in Berg’s Woyzeck, Agis in de Marivaux’s The Triumph of Love, Cloten in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, and Ferryman in Britten’s Curlew River.

Södersten has more than 20 years’ experience as a filmmaker and development executive with Scandinavia’s leading producers and television networks. He has directed two novella-length films broadcast on Swedish TV: Pass, with Michael Nyqvist (who starred in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Fissura. He currently teaches Directing Actors at the Columbia University Graduate Film Program.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #496 (Wednesday, February 6, 2019). This story appeared on page B3.

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