This interview was previously seen in the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Newsletter.
The Grammy Award–winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus
is gearing up for the New York premiere of Aging Magician
right here at The New Victory Theater! The creative masterpiece of composer Paola Prestini and librettist/performer Rinde Eckert, 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 the Attacca Quartet, Aging Magician
moves us along with Harold from the surgical repair of a timepiece to the magic show of time itself, lives and deaths, appearances and disappearances. We asked composer Paola Prestini and director Julian Crouch about what to expect from its New York debut.
Can you walk us through Harold’s journey? What is it that makes him so interesting?
Basically Harold is writing a book about an aging magician who, in turn, is searching for a young boy to pass his knowledge on to. Harold takes a physical journey which follows the F train to Coney Island but simultaneously through his memories.
Are there any specific sources of inspiration for Aging Magician?
I was listening to Triplets of Belleville
, and a wide roster of influences: music from Tunisia, folk music from Mexico, some of the grand musicals from the 40-50’s...and of course all the operatic work I love!
What can audiences expect from Aging Magician and from the character Harold?
Audiences can expect an interdisciplinary journey of music, theater, opera and puppetry led by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus into the life of our ordinary and wonderful lead, Harold.
What was your (Julian and Paola’s) collaboration with each other–and Rinde–like?
We worked together on concept, story, and we have our ebb and flow. For example, with Rinde, we’ve gone back and forth—where sometime I write music and he fills in text. Julian is exquisitely sensitive to music, and he understands structure innately, so he often comments and helps on that end.
As far as the writing goes, Paola and Rinde do the hard work (music and libretto) while I act as a kind of dramaturg, focusing mainly on theatrical structure. As director and co-designer, I am also responsible for the staging and the visual cohesion of the piece with collaborators Mark Stewart (instrument designer/sculptor), Amy Rubin (co-designer) and Josh Higgason (projection and lighting design).
What was designing for Aging Magician like compared to your other work?
To be honest, every piece of work has its own character. However, the main joy of Aging Magician
and what makes it unusual for me is the opportunity to take advantage of a conducted chorus, not just as a musical element but also as mass image generator.
What does the chorus represent in Aging Magician?
The chorus was inspired by the gondolier Charon the Ferryman, who crosses the souls across the river Styx. The chorus ushers, cajoles and helps Harold on this ultimate journey of a lifetime.
Choristers from Brooklyn Youth Chorus in a moment of puppetry with Harold, portrayed by Aging Magician librettist Rinde Eckert
Julian, your work often features puppetry or live animation. Does the show have any puppetry?
There nothing in this show that someone would call a conventional puppet. But certainly objects and materials are manipulated using puppetry skills. So puppetry, but no puppets.
What is the most challenging aspect of working together on Aging Magician?
Coordination of calendars…We are all busy people. Other than that, just the usual challenge of artists trying to create an extraordinary piece.
I loved it all. The challenges, as always, are the time each discipline takes and making sure everyone’s process is respected. I couldn’t ask for a more extraordinary cast of characters and collaborators.