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The Black Rider

From Academic Kids

Program for the 2004 Canadian tour of The Black Rider.
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Program for the 2004 Canadian tour of The Black Rider.

The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets is a rock opera created through the collaboration of Robert Wilson, Tom Waits, and William S. Burroughs. Wilson was largely responsible for the design and direction. Burroughs wrote most of the lyrics, and Waits wrote the music. The project began in about 1988 when Wilson approached Waits. The story is based on a German folktale called Der Freischütz, which had previously been made into an opera by Carl Maria von Weber. It premiered at Hamburg's Thalia Theatre on March 31, 1990. It received its world English-language premiere in 1998 at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival in Canada. See also The Black Rider (album).

Synopsis

A file clerk (Wilhelm) and a huntsman's daughter are desperately in love. In order to marry, he must prove his worth as a hunter and gain her fathers approval. Being a man of pen and ink, his shot is lousy and his hopes of marriage worsen. That is until he is offered magic bullets by the devil - Pegleg, the eponymous 'Black Rider' - who assures him that with these he will always have a sure shot. The deal is that one of the bullets is under the control of Pegleg. Foolish, naive, and overrun with desperate hope, he accepts this Faustian pact - only to find that on the day of his contest the final bullet strikes dead his beloved. He joins the previous victims of Satan's cunning in the Devil's carnival.

Although based on folklore, the story contains strong autobiographical elements from Burroughs' own life: he accidentally shot his own wife in a drunken attempt at recreating the William Tell legend.


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