Sanctuary Series to host a benefit performance of Lankester's Mrs. Mozart

The Sanctuary Series, dedicated to presenting extraordinary keyboard performances in the historic hamlet of South Salem, NY, will begin its 5th Season Sunday, Sept. 24, by hosting a special benefit performance of Mrs. Mozart, a one-woman play by Michael Lankester based a meeting Constanze Mozart had with English tourists in the 19th century. The dialogue is interspersed with Mozart’s music performed on piano by Mr. Lankester, who also directs. The remarkably evocative play, which will be staged in the Sanctuary of the South Salem Presbyterian Church, has been extremely well-received wherever presented. Written for, and first performed in London by Joan Plowright, who was then Laurence Olivier’s wife, the play premiered in the United States in 1999 at The Bushnell in Hartford with Estelle Parsons starring as Constanze.

Mrs. Mozart was inspired by the diaries of an English couple, Vincent Novello, an accomplished musician and his wife, Mary who were great fans of Mozart and had traveled to Salzburg in 1829, 38 years after the composer’s death, where they were granted an interview by the 66-year-old Consanze. Their meticulous notes of Constanze's recollections were lost to history for more than a century until discovered in an Italian villa by soldiers near the end of World War II and published in 1955 as Mozart Pilgrimage. To Mr. Lankester, the much-maligned wife of the frenetic and childlike Mozart was an ideal companion who created an environment within which he could flourish.

The part of the great composer’s widow will be played by Brenda Curtis. A veteran of the stage, Ms. Curtis’s acting career spanned decades.  A leading lady across the US and Canada, she performed in many classics of the theater.  Directed twice by Jose Ferrer, she acted with him in The Dresser, and has performed with Rosemary Harris, Van Johnson, Jean Marsh, Robert Guillaume and Paul Hecht.   A resident of South Salem where she raised her two boys, her husband is Broadway actor John Bergstrom.

An eminent, international conductor, composer, arranger and commentator, Michael Lankester has recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, was conductor-in-residence at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and completed a highly successful 15-year tenure as Music Director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.  A former Music Director of the National Theater of Great Britain, Mr. Lankester worked with many distinguished directors including Jonathan Miller, John Dexter, Ingmar Bergman and Franco Zeffirelli. He collaborated extensively with Laurence Olivier composing and recording scores for numerous plays and television productions and served as conductor for the inaugural production of Tom Stoppard's play Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour.

The Sanctuary Series, under the guidance of artistic director, Mary Jane Newman, begins its 2017 – 2018 season on Sunday afternoon, November 5 with a concert featuring German pianist Ulrich Murtfeld presented in conjunction with The German Forum, for whom he will be performing earlier in the week at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, and continues December 17 with a special Holiday Concert featuring keyboardist Anthony Newman. The Series will present four additional and equally exciting Sunday afternoon performances in the Spring: a recital featuring cellist Carter Brey (February 25, 2018); the Horszowski Trio (March 18); Frederic Chiu (April 15); and Magdalena Baczewska (May 13). All performances are in the Sanctuary of the South Salem Presbyterian Church with the Series’ Yamaha concert grand piano.

South Salem Presbyterian Church is located at 111 Spring Street. The special benefit performance of Mrs. Mozart begins at 4 PM and will be followed by a Viennese Reception in the Church’s community room. Parking is free. Tickets for the performance are $35 for general admission and $50 for preferred seating. Sponsors are $250 (includes four preferred seats) and Patrons $150 (two preferred seats). For more information about the benefit performance or the upcoming season, visit the group’s website at, call 914-763-5402 or email