Aging Magician




Commissioned by the Walker Art Center and the Krannert Center. Choral Opera for singing actor, children's chorus and string quartet. Text by Rinde Eckert, direction by Julian Crouch.

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.

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Choral Opera


BROOKLYN YOUTH CHORUS and the ATTACCA STRING QUARTET led by Dianne Berkun-Menaker. Co-created by Julian Crouch, Rinde Eckert, Paola Prestini and Mark Stewart. Written for Gus Rigoli Composed by PAOLA PRESTINI in collaboration with stage director & co-designer JULIAN CROUCH. Co-Scenic Designer and Costume Design AMY RUBIN. Libretto by & featuring RINDE ECKERT. Instrument designer MARK STEWART. Projection and Lighting Design by JOSH HIGGASON. Sound Design MARC URSELLI. Featuring the ATTACCA QUARTET & THE BROOKLYN YOUTH CHORUS with Dianne Berkun-Menaker, conductor

Funders and Partners


"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 opera."