The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets

Opera by Robert Wilson, Tom Waits, and William S. Burroughs

Premiered on March 31, 1990 at the Thalia Theater, Hamburg, Germany
Premiered on May 17, 2004 at the Barbican Theatre, London, United Kingdom

First staged in 1990 at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater, The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets was collaboratively conceived by Robert Wilson, American singer-songwriter Tom Waits, and William S. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch and other texts, many of which have affected a wide range of popular culture and contemporary literature.  They based their tale of a hapless young clerk and his fateful pact with the devil on the German folktale and 19th-century ghost story The Freeshooter (Der Freischütz).  The original work first starred Dominique Horwitz, Annette Paulmann and Stefan Kurt, and was later revived under Wilson’s direction in 2004, as an English-language version, and starred Marianne Faithfull as Pegleg and Canadian singer Mary Margaret O’Hara as Käthchen. Since 1994, the work has frequently been licensed and mounted by other companies and under different directors. There have been more than 100 licensed production of The Black Rider, mostly in German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, notably at the Schaubühne Berlin, Schauspiel Frankfurt, Dresden State Theater, Royal Dramatic Theater Stockholm, and Det Norske Teatret Oslo.  To this day, The Black Rider remains in the repertories of many theaters.

Almost 20 years after having created The Black Rider, in 2009, Robert Wilson directed Carl Maria von Weber's 19th-century romantic opera, The Freeshooter (Der Freischütz), which was based on the same ghost story as this work.

Mr. Wilson is the production’s master illustrator. Far from the esthetic philosopher of “Einstein on the Beach” searching for the ineffable, in “The Black Rider” he is more of a puppeteer and conjurer of spectacular special effects. His overall visual concept evokes a playful union of German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki with American vaudeville, musical comedy and silent-movie clowning.
— Stephen Holden, The New York Times, November 22, 1993
A one-of-a-kind premiere by three cult artists.
— Werner Burkhardt, Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 2, 1990

Note for Producers and Presenters
To obtain the Grand Rights for The Black Rider, as well as for the other Wilson/Waits collaborations (Woyzeck and Alice), please contact the following publishers: