"In the poignant, entrancing “Aging Magician...the rich artistic elements come
together powerfully. The music is crucial, by turns pensive and fidgety,
solemnly harmonic and skittishly diffuse...the choral writing is ethereal,
unfolding in long-spun lines and chant-like phrases. Its high-powered creative
team includes the dazzling set designer and director Julian Crouch (he’s
worked on “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway, and Philip Glass’s
“Satyagraha” at the Metropolitan Opera); the imaginative composer Paola
Prestini; and the poetic librettist and musician Rinde Eckert, who plays Harold
in a tour-de-force and deeply affecting performance. The children in the
audience were enraptured with Harold’s new playhouse and the strangely
mystical music."
                                              Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

A new music-theatre work, AGING MAGICIAN is a composite of sonic and visual elements that paints an allegory on time, youth, and the peculiar magic of ordinary life, and, perhaps, the ordinary magic of a peculiar life. Accompanied by a string quartet and a choir of young people, AGING MAGICIAN moves us along from the surgical repair of a timepiece to the magic show of time itself—lives and deaths, appearances and disappearances. The man’s vibrant last adventure is brought to life by a team of multidisciplinary artists who combine music, theatre, puppetry, instrument making, and scenic design to create an enduring work for the stage. The story follows Harold, an amateur clockmaker who excitedly tries and yet struggles to complete the story of his alter-ego, a magician. As the youth guide Harold through his final adventure along the F train to Coney Island, they deal with our relation to the material world and our notions of time, nostalgia, illusion, faith, and identity. We are inside Harold’s small clock shop, where the world is exceedingly large, a magic trick in itself.

The Set

The entire stage is a living breathing instrument cocreated by Mark Stewart and Julian Crouch, with the Magician’s head-sculpture as the
centerpiece. Flanked by Brooklyn Youth Chorus’
26 singers judging, playing and consoling,
Harold is surrounded by his own thoughts
transposed into song and text.
This journey brings the audience into Harold’s
uncertain world as he grasps to find meaning in
a mind-scape of imagination while living in a
world of constraint. Stewart and Crouch/Rubin’s
set is an immersive installation that can be
played like an instrument blown, struck,
whistled, plucked, and bowed. The scenery’s
surfaces come alive through the kids interplay
who help it become the canvas for projection
design, installation and puppetry. The set
illuminates throughout the arc of the story to
reveal Coney Island: a city in full glory that will
carry the magician into the afterlife, all the while
as elements of his fantastic dream remain in the
real world.

The Process

Aging Magician is a hybrid work that crosses opera, theater,
and the visual arts.
It was written for children to understand the magic and cycles
of life and was a ten year educational process with the
Brooklyn Youth Chorus who have performed in each iteration.
Aging Magician was in residence at MASS MoCA, the
Watermill Center, and The Park Avenue Opera, and was
commissioned by the Walker Art Center, and went on to The
Krannert Center, Arizona State University’s Gammage, the
New Victory Theater and San Diego Opera.
It was produced by Beth Morrison Projects and VisionIntoArt.


"Unforgettable. The whole presentation was so innocent, so imaginative,
so nurturing, so charming, so beautiful, that my cynical, post-Covid
sensibility tried to resist. But we all have our place in the universe, in the
present moment, and perhaps beyond. As the Magician discovered, and
we along with him, resistance is futile." —Opera News

“Timeless magic…Shockingly beautiful.”
—Broadway World

“The themes of mysticism, transformation and enchantment are apt for
this world premiere, created by an avant-garde dream team. “
—Star Tribune

"The one hour and 20-minute opera-theater ended to dead silence from a
stunned, enraptured audience. Then the applause started, audience
members stood up, and the cheering lasted a full four minutes."
—Helen Ofield, Patch

“Prestini’s music is haunting, playful, strange and joyful, and it was
beautifully rendered by the affable and funny Eckert, the Attacca Quartet
and the 29-member all-girls choir. Visually and aurally stunning…”
—San Diego Tribune

"[San Diego] opened Paola Prestini's Aging Magician, an intriguing
staged work that is as close to performance art as is it is to chamber