Los Angeles Ahmanson Theatre will be staging performances of The
Black Rider from April 22 to June 11, 2006.
Conservatory Theatre presents Robert Wilson, Tom Waits and the late
William S. Burroughs' extraordinary musical fable The Black Rider:
The Casting of the Magic Bullets
Black Rider is amazingly unclassifiable and falls more in line with
avant guard German expressionistic films of the '20s like the Cabinet
of Dr. Caligari. The three major contributors have tapped into two
centuries of German art to produce this "opera." Some
may rather call it a "rock opera," although many of the
songs have an early Kurt Weill feel about them. The "opera"
draws on the 1810 story Der Freischutz by August Apel and Friedrich
Laun, which was based on a 17th century ghost story. Later, Der
Freischutz was turned into an opera by Karl Maria Von Weber and
is still performed in Europe today.
Black Rider was first presented in Germany in 1990 by the Thalia
Theatre of Hamburg. The piece was first performed in the States
at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the New York Times said it
was "one of the most persistently insinuating and affective
musical works of the recent season." The London Daily Telegraph
called it "an extraordinary piece of music theatre ... enough
to make the cool drool."
plot centers on Wilhelm (Matt McGrath), an intellectual young clerk
who must learn to hunt in order to marry his true love, a woodsman's
daughter, Kathchen (Mary Margaret O'Hara). He strikes a deal with
the devil incarnate (Marianne Faithfull) for magic bullets that
never miss their mark. However, in this production, nothing is what
it seems; the devil sings, animals talk, the walls becomes woods
and bullets have minds of their own. In fact, the plot does not
really matter as the visuals create an amazing tableaux.
McGrath (Emcee on Broadway in Cabaret, plus New York productions
of A Streetcar Named Desire, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) gives a
sterling performance as Wilhelm. His movements are graceful and
he gets that raspy voice of Tom Waits in several of the songs. Marianne
Faithfull is good as Pegleg and she has a speaking/singing voice
that is reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich. Canadian singer Mary Margaret
O'Hara has a sublime voice and her movements are exquisite. Jack
Willis (has appeared in over 150 productions in the US and associate
artist of the Arena Stage in Washington D.C.) dominates the stage
every time he appears with his booming Shakespearian voice.
Barbican Centre May 17th to June 19th 2004. San Francisco's American
Conservatory Theater August 26th to September 26th, 2004
T the Sydney Festival in January 2005.