Past Shows

Aging Magician

Artist’s Praise

"Radiant...amorously evocative"
— The New York Times (about Prestini's compositions)

"An enigmatic detente... potent, soulful"
— The New York Times

  • share this

About the Show

As a tenet of PROTOTYPE, each year a preview of a work in progress will be presented that will be shown in completion in future seasons. Paola Prestini's work in progress Aging Magician begins with a barker for a magic show at Coney Island, undergoing an operation in the early 20th century.  He begins to hallucinate and imagines himself as a famous magician being transported by Charon, the boatman of the underworld, across the river Styx, which he envisions as Venice.  The patient is transformed into a magician and his bed becomes a gliding gondola.  He encounters and falls in love with a boy who sings from his piano and encourages the Magician to take one last journey before death.  As the Gondolier, Charon cares for and shepherds the Magician through the adventure.  What unfolds is a compelling portrait of longing and loneliness and the persistence of hope as this gentle soul performs the ultimate magic trick: the transformation of an un-magical life, in its final moments, to one of greatness, representing mankind’s ultimate yearning to leave a legacy to the departed world.

A children’s youth chorus will be woven into set and story.  They begin as spectators in the operating theatre and tend to the transformation of the operating room into the Coney Island/Venice/Hades of the protagonist’s mind.  The antiseptic hospital becomes an explosion of color.  The chorus of medical students becomes a moving sea of life as boardwalk denizens and puppeteers, creating an orchestra of sound effects with their voices.  In the end, artifacts of the fantastic journey remain, and the color and magic of the patient’s dream have entered the real world.

Instrument designer Mark Stewart will create an immersive installation that can be played like an instrument—blown, struck, whistled, plucked, and bowed.  The port and starboard of the gondola will be made of long strings that will be played by the Rinde Eckert, the Magician and a music ensemble led by violinist Cornelius Dufallo.  Along with directing, Julian Crouch will create the scenic and puppetry design forAging Magician. Julian’s scenery will be a canvas for video designer S. Katy Tucker. She will paint the space through film, creating water, stars, and sky along with scenes from the Magician’s imagination.  The installation will slowly illuminate throughout the arc of the story to reveal the gondola in its full glory.

Prestini specializes in works that transcend disciplinary boundaries and that (as Time Out NY noted) "gracefully walk the line between opera and performance art." Her writing for strings is contrapuntal and melodic, and laced with field samples that she collects. The string quartet at times will be amplified by an orchestra of strings, digitally recorded. Crouch, Prestini and Eckert plan to create an integrated tale spun from our own musings on life and death, failed and imagined loves, and attempts at greatness. Through these discoveries, they place the protagonist, an aging magician, on the boat ride of his life.


Created and Composed by Paola Prestini

In collaboration with Stage Director & Designer Julian Crouch
Text by Rinde Eckert
Video & Projection Design by S. Katy Tucker
Featuring Rinde Eckert with The Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Custom Creative Instrument made by Mark Stewart

Aging Magician is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts 


Running Time: 40 Minutes

** NEW 8:30 PM SHOW ADDED!  January 16th ** 

Post-Performance Discussion will follow the January 15th show

Artist Bio

Paola Prestini
Paola Prestini is a composer, director and a co-founder of VisionIntoArt, an interdisciplinary collective/production company based in NY. Her 2009 Tzadik release Body Maps has been featured on WQXR and Q2 and showcases new music’s great soloists. She has been commissioned and performed by ensembles such as New York City Opera, MATA, Ensemble ACJW, the Kronos Quartet, ETHEL, Carnegie Hall, WNYC, and Concert Artist Guild in venues and festivals worldwide. Her current projects include works for Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Now, a residency at the Krannert Center, De Deo, an opera with librettist Donna Di Novelli that will inaugurate New York City Opera’s Word First Program, and large scale works for soloists Maya Beiser and Cornelius Dufallo.  

Paola has received awards from ASCAP, NYSCA and the LMCC and is a Paul and Daisy Soros fellow, and a Sundance Fellow. A graduate of the Juillard School, she studied with Robert Beaser, Samuel Adler, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Rinde Eckert
Rinde Eckert, the 2009 recipient of The Alpert Award in the Arts for his contributions to Theatre and finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, is a writer, composer, performer and director. His Opera / New Music Theatre productions have toured throughout America, and to major theater festivals in Europe and Asia. Recent writing credits include Horizon (2007-2008 Drama Desk Nominations for Best Play and Best Director, Lucille Lortel Award: "Unique Theatrical Experience"); O.rpheus X (Pulitzer Prize nomination); Highway Ulysses and Four Songs Lost in a Wall (The American Academy of Arts and Letters 2005 Marc Blitzstein Award); And God Created Great Whales (OBIE Award: Best Performance, Drama Desk Nomination: "Unique Theatrical Experience"); and the two, one-act plays An Idiot Divine, performed at Zankel Hall in New York City. Three of his plays - And God Created Great Whales, Horizon and Orpheus X - have had successful off-Broadway runs.

Julian Crouch
Julian Crouch 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, COMA and 70 HILL LANE. He designed and was associate director on the multi award-winning JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA at the National Theatre, West End and UK tour. 

Other recent productions include DR ATOMIC for The Met / ENO, THE MAGIC FLUTE for Welsh National Opera, the Broadway musical of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, and THE ENCHANTED ISLAND for The Met. His most recent production was THE DEVIL AND MISTER PUNCH which he devised, directed and designed, and has just finished a sell out run at the Barbican, London. Julian is
Artist in Residence at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. 

He is currently designing BIG FISH for Broadway and CINDERELLA for The Dutch National Ballet.

Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Now in its twenty-first season, the GRAMMY® Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus (BYC), under the direction of Founder and Artistic Director Dianne Berkun, is one of the country’s leading children’s choruses and the ensemble of choice for internationally renowned orchestras and artists.  The Chorus studies and performs a wide range of music—classical and non-classical—and has an active commissioning program to develop new works across a variety of genres.  BYC has performed with a wide range of major artists including Elton John, Lou Reed, Grizzly Bear and John Legend, and under the batons of Valery Gergiev, Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, Robert Spano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Reinbert de Leeuw, and others. In 2005 BYC won a GRAMMY® Award for the world premiere live recording of John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls with the New York Philharmonic. 

BYC often performs in major music festivals including the BAM Next Wave Festival with the Kronos Quartet, BAM’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner, the Ecstatic Music Festival and Park Avenue Armory’s Tune-In Festival.  BYC has also garnered a strong reputation as a major arts presenter with several collaborative projects including 2011’s Tell the Way, co-produced with St. Ann’s Warehouse, and 2012’s Brooklyn Village, co-produced with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Roulette Theater.  The Chorus receives its training from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy (BYCA)––a performance-based vocal music education program serving over 350 students annually in six ensembles. The Chorus draws students from all over the city and reflects the broad diversity of the Metropolitan area. 



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