The Black Rider: History

Oct 05, 2004

Der Freischutz (The Free-Shooter), on which The Black Rider is based, was first printed in the early 1800’s. An old German folktale, it was first published in a collection of ghost stories called Gespensterbuch by August Apel and Friedrich Laun.
It was adapted into a widely celebrated opera by Carl Maria von Weber in 1821. The opera, also named Der Freischutz, deviates from the original story by giving it a happy ending. In the tradition of the Deus Ex Machina, an angel appears at the end who sets everything right.
In 1823, Thomas de Quincy wrote an adaptation of his own: The Fatal Marksman, which is based on the original ghost story. The Fatal Marksman, along with the original tale of Der Freischutz, would later inspire the creators of The Black Rider.
Robert Wilson, Tom Waits, and William S. Burroughs premiered their collaboration in 1990 at the Talia Theatre in Hamburg. As Waits explains, “Burroughs found some of the branches of the story, and let them grow into more metaphorical things in all of our lives every day that, in fact, are deals with the Devil that we’ve made. What is cunning about those deals is that we’re not aware we’ve made them. And when they come to fruition, we are shocked and amazed.”
In 1998, the November Theatre production of The Black Rider premiered at the Edmonton Fringe – it was the World English Language Premiere and has since gone on to a successful world tour.