Past Shows

Aging Magician

Artist’s Praise

The Aging Magician is grandly, even venerably, operatic…[from the composer] who wrote the acclaimed Oceanic Verses
— Marion Lignana Rosenberg, WQXR

…an enigmatic détente….potent, soulful
— Steve Smith, The New York Times

  • share this

About the Show

A workshop presentation of 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. The performance takes the audience on the journey of a reclusive older man's vibrant last adventure, 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.


Co-created by composer Paola Prestini, writer and performer Rinde Eckert, and director and designer Julian Crouch

Co-Scenic Design by Amy Rubin

Video Design by Katy & Josh Higgason

Lighting design by Josh Higgason

Instruments made by Mark Stewart

Featuring the Brooklyn Youth Chorus conducted by Dianne Berkun-Menaker and JACK Quartet:
Christopher Otto, Violin
Ari Streisfeld, Violin
John Pickford Richards, Viola
Kevin McFarland, Cello

Produced by Beth Morrison Projects and VisionIntoArt

Co-presented by Park Avenue Armory, in association with OPERA America's New Works Forum and the Watermill Center

Aging Magician was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.


Show Run Time: 75 minutes

Artist Bio

BROOKLYN YOUTH CHORUS (Chorus) is a Grammy® Award-winning group now in its twenty-second season. Under the direction of Founder and Artistic Director Dianne Berkun-Menaker, is one of the country's leading youth choruses and the ensemble of choice for internationally renowned orchestras and artists. The New York Times has hailed them as "remarkable young singers," and recently described the Chorus as "a consistently bold organization that regularly commissions works from composers representing an unusually broad stylistic range." The Times also noted "The Brooklyn Youth Chorus has adopted an innovative approach to training young singers, one that preserves classic repertory and absorbs new sounds. The group is as comfortable singing the music of Mahler, Puccini and Tchaikovsky as it is collaborating with a range of contemporary artists that includes Grizzly Bear, the rapper Talib Kweli, and the composer John Adams.

The Chorus studies and performs a vast repertoire of music--classical and contemporary--and has an active commissioning program, New Voices, to develop works for young voices across a variety of genres. Composers commissioned to date include Nico Muhly, David Lang, Bryce Dessner, Missy Mazzoli, Paul Moravec, Julia Wolf, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Shara Worden, John King, Colin Stetson, and others.

BYC has appeared with acclaimed orchestras and conductors, including Alan Gilbert, Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, Valery Gergiev, James Levine, Robert Spano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Reinbert de Leeuw as well as celebrated recording artists such as Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Lou Reed, Grizzly Bear, and John Legend. BYC won a Grammy Award for the world premiere live recording of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls with the New York Philharmonic in 2005. Known for its polished performances, the Chorus frequently appears at such important music festivals as BAM's Next Wave and Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festivals, the Ecstatic Music Festival, the MusicNOW Festival, and Park Avenue Armory's Tune-In Festival.  BYC has also garnered a strong reputation as an arts presenter with such major collaborative projects as Brooklyn Village, co-produced with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Roulette Theater in 2012, and Tell the Way, co-produced with St. Ann's Warehouse and curated by composer Nico Muhly in 2011.

BYC serves more than 450 singers annually in six ensembles at its headquarters in Cobble Hill and its annex in Bedford-Stuyvesant. BYC choristers, who range from seven to 18 years old, hail from 71 different zip codes, reflecting the broad diversity of the Metropolitan area.

JULIAN CROUCH (Stage Direction and Set Design) is a director, designer, writer, and teacher whose career has spanned Theatre, Opera, Film, and Television. Julian was a founding member of Improbable Theatre and was co-director and co-designer of the international and West End phenomenon Shockheaded Peter. Other shows for Improbable include Satyagraha in a co-production with the English National Opera and The Metropolitan Opera, Spirit, which Julian directed, and which was a co-production with The Royal Court, COMA, which he co-devised and co-designed, Sticky, The Hanging Man, and 70 Hill Lane. He designed and was associate director on the multi award-winning Jerry SpringerThe Opera at the National Theatre, West End and UK tour. His last show for Improbable was The Devil and Mr. Punch for the Barbican, London.

Other recent productions include Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Broadway); Big Fish (Broadway); Cinderella for The Dutch National Ballet, DR ATOMIC for The Met / ENO, The Magic Flute for Welsh National Opera, the Broadway musical of The Addams FamilyThe Enchanted Island for The Met. Opera, and Jedermann for the Salzburg Festival.

Julian received a Tony Award Nomination for Best Scenic Design of a Musical for Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

He is currently is developing a two hander called Birdheart, and designing The Merry Widow for the Met Opera, Le Petit Prince for Lausanne Opera, Threepenny Opera for the Salzburg Festival and The Nutcracker  for the Joffrey Ballet.

RINDE ECKERT (Text and Performance) was named by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation as one of 21 inaugural Doris Duke Artists. Each performing artist in the first class will receive an unrestricted, multi-year cash grant of $225,000. Rinde was the 2009 recipient of The Alpert Award in the Arts for his contributions to Theatre and was the finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

Theatrical writing credits and awards include Highway Ulysses and Four Songs Lost in a Wall (The American Academy of Arts and Letters 2005 Marc Blitzstein Award); Horizon (2007-2008 Drama Desk Nominations: Best Play, Best Director; Lucille Lortel Award: "Unique Theatrical Experience"); Orpheus X (2007 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama); And God Created Great Whales (OBIE Award: Best Performance, Drama Desk Nomination: "Unique Theatrical Experience"). Three of Rinde Eckert's plays — And God Created Great Whales, Horizon and Orpheus X — have had successful off-Broadway runs. Eckert's theatrical work has been produced in New York City by The Foundry Theatre, Culture Project, Theater for a New Audience and the New York Theatre Workshop. Outside of New York, American Repertory Theatre, Center Stage in Baltimore, Dobama Theatre Company, REDCAT at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater in Los Angeles, and Berkeley Repertory Theater have produced his work, which has been directed by Robert Woodruff, David Schweizer, Richard ET White, Tony Taccone and Ellen McLaughlin.

New music writing and directing projects include the critically acclaimed Sandhills Reunion CD (music by Jerry Granelli, text by Eckert); The Schick Machine with virtuoso percussionist Steven Schick in a solo-theater work composed/produced by Paul Dresher; Imaginary City with So Percussion; Sound Stage for the ensemble Zeitgeist; and Steven Mackey's oratorio Dream House. Conducted by Gil Rose with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the recording received three 2010 Grammy Nominations: Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. Eckert also wrote the text and performed in the multi-media production Slide with composer/guitarist Mackey and the new music ensemble eighth blackbird, which toured to major university campuses. Cedille Records renamed the project Lonely Motel, which won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Gurs Zyklus, a new music/performance/multi-media installation and collaboration with sound sculptor Trimpin, debuted at Stanford University and was at On the Boards in Seattle in May 2012. Eckert and Mackey are also members of BIG FARM, the 4-person 'prog-rock' super group with drummer Jason Treuting (So Percussion) and bassist Mark Haanstra. Following his success teaching a creativity course at Princeton University, Rinde began a 6-year residency in Spring 2009. He was the 2008 Granada Artist-in-Residence at the University of California at Davis Department of Theater and Dance where he wrote and directed Fate and Spinoza, and was in partnership with the University of Iowa to create, write, direct and perform in Eye Piece, a play exploring the loss of vision and involving 30 theater students. Rinde Eckert lives in New York with his wife, Ellen McLaughlin, the playwright and actress.

DIANNE BERKUN-MENAKER (Brooklyn Youth Chorus Director) is the founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy (BYCA). Under her visionary leadership, BYC has become one of the most highly regarded ensembles in the country and has stretched the artistic boundaries for the youth chorus. Berkun-Menaker has prepared choruses for performances with acclaimed conductors, including Alan Gilbert, Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, James Levine, Charles Dutoit, and Robert Spano. Most notably, she prepared BYC for its 2002 debut with the New York Philharmonic in John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, the cording for which the Chorus won a GRAMMY® Award in 2005.

Ms. Berkun-Menaker has also prepared the Chorus for appearances and recordings with artists such as Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Grizzly Bear, John Legend, Natasha Bedingfield, and Alicia Keys. She has developed an active commissioning program, born out of a desire to showcase the Chorus's versatility and uniquely beautiful sound and has collaborated with some of the most important composers of our time, including Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Julia Wolfe, Richard Reed Parry and Shara Worden.

Ms. Berkun-Menaker is a regular choral clinician and teaching artist for such organizations as the New York Philharmonic and The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, and has also presented workshops and master classes for New York University, NYSSMA, the American Choral Directors Association, and the New York City Department of Education. She is the creator of the Chorus's Cross-Choral Training program, a proven holistic and experiential approach to developing singers in a group setting encompassing both voice and musicianship pedagogy. Ms. Berkun-Menaker earned her B.S. degree in Music Education and Piano magna cum laude from New York University. She studied at Mannes College of Music, holds a diploma in the Kodály Concept from the University of Calgary, and the Artist-Teacher diploma from the CME Institute.

PAOLA PRESTINI (Composer) was appointed Creative Director of Original Music Workshop "OMW" in January 2012. She is known as the co-founder and  "visionary-in-chief" (TimeOut NY) of VisionIntoArt, an interdisciplinary production company that has created over 70 multimedia productions seen worldwide. The New Yorker has called her a "composer-impresario" and The New York Times has said that she is "a human resources alchemist...[and] an inventive composer whose style mixes the ancient and the up-to-date, the folk inspired and the artfully polished...[her music is] radiant, and amorously evocative.

Her works have been performed worldwide, from the Kennedy Center and BAM's Next Wave Festival in the US, to BEMUS in Serbia, Etnafest in Italy, and the Barbican Centre in London. Named by NPR as one of the "Top 100 composers in the World under 40," she has been commissioned and performed by Carnegie Hall, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York City Opera, and the Kronos Quartet in venues and festivals worldwide.

Her current projects include works for the New York Philharmonic's 2014 Biennale, an installation concerto commissioned by the Krannert Center for Maya Beiser and Cornelius Dufallo; the Hubble Cantata commissioned by Bay Chamber Concerts for soprano Jessica Rivera, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and astrophysicist Mario Livio; Oceanic Verses at the Barbican Centre with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; an evening length dance with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company; and Aging Magician, an opera-theater collaboration with Rinde Eckert, Julian Crouch and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus that is in residence at the Watermill Center and the Park Avenue Armory. She is known for her collaborations, which have been lauded by TimeOut NY as, "ingeniously staged concert pieces that gracefully walk the line between opera and performance art", and has enjoyed years of fruitful collaborations with muses, visual artists, writers and filmmakers. Her residencies include MASS MoCA, the Hermitage Retreat, Sound Res, Ucross Foundation, Sundance Institute, and LMCC Governor's Island, and she has worked in colleges and in residencies in Italy, Africa, Mexico and Venezuela. She was a 2012 Musical Exchange Fellow for Carnegie Hall as a featured artist, and was a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow. She is passionate about education, having taught from inner city schools in New York, to El Sistema in Venezuela. She is the editor of the New York Philharmonic's Very Young Composer book, and her music is released on Tzadik Records; her writing is published in the Arcana series, by Hips Road. She is a graduate of the Juilliard School, and has studied with Samuel Adler, Robert Beaser and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

KATY TUCKER (Video and Projection Design) is a video and projections designer based in New York City. Katy began her career as a painter and installation artist, exhibiting her work at a variety of galleries, such as The Corcoran Museum in Washington, DC and Artist's Space in New York City. In 2003, as her video installations became more "theatrical," Katy shifted her focus to video and projection design for the stage. S. Katy Tucker (known for her collaborations with Francesca Zambello in opera) will paint the space of Aging Magician through film, painting scenes from the magician's imagination.


Artist Statement

The genesis of my work often begins with a simple seed of an idea that I deeply want to explore. The idea is often prompted by a literary or visual foray, life experience, or person.

For Aging Magician, my inspiration was a man named Gus, who was my mother's lover for many years.Today, at age 86, Gus remains in my life. Despite all of his success, Gus is now alone and is experiencing the endless emotions of an end of life. He always wanted to sing and make beauty and, though all who benefit from his love and generosity see the beauty within him, Gus never saw it himself. In my mind, Gus is the Aging Magician. However, each lead artist in Aging Magician sees and identifies with the protagonist in a personal way, and this is what I believe ultimately, will bring universality to the theme at hand.

The combination of artists in Aging are unique artists with very different aesthetic entry points--uniting these disparate threads is at the center of my own artistic voice. At a residency, I met instrumentalist/instrument maker Mark Stewart who, at the time, created small "personal" instruments out of stethoscopes and ice cream spoons. Only the person wearing the stethoscope, which was cleverly attached to a small fret board, could hear the music. I knew that Stewart would be the perfect collaborator to create a magical instrument that would transport the Magician to his next life. I wanted the instrument to be immersive with the ability to be climbed on and played in multiple ways, which would highlight librettist and performer Rinde Eckert's virtuosity. I ultimately knew I wanted to work with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and that Julian Crouch's whimsical and brilliant sensibility would add the the magic we needed to direct and design this work.

Paola Prestini