The Black Rider

The Black Rider (1998) was a musical theatre production by The Norwegian Theatre, based on the musical by Robert Wilson, Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs, in a translation by Ola E. Bø. It was performed at the theatre's main stage.

It was directed by Carl Jørgen Kiønig.

Lasse Kolsrud played the role of Peg Leg.


(Objekt ID 32853)
Object type Production
Premiere September 4, 1998
Produced by The Norwegian Theatre
Based on The Black Rider by Robert Wilson, Tom Waits, Tom Waits, William Seward Burroughs
Audience Adults
Audience size 19914
Number of events 45
Language Norwegian Nynorsk and English
Expressions Theatre, Musical
Running period September 4, 1998  
Website Det Norske Teatret

Requirements to venue

Blackout No

At the webpage of The Norwegian Theatre the following, among other things, is written about Black Rider:

"The Black Rider tells the classic story of the man who makes dubious deals with the devil. About choosing, about selling one's soul and about being dependent of something, whether money, love or drugs?

The latter is a familiar theme with the beat writer William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch), who has written the lyrics with Tom Waits. Tom Waits' evocative music, ranging from opera to cabaret, makes up the frame for the piece. The original song texts are preserved in the Norwegian production.

Wilhelm is a bookkeeper who wants to marry Kätchen. She is the daughter of an old forest warden who wants his son-in-law to be a competent hunter, not an office worker. A shooting test is supposed to determine whether Wilhelm is good enough. The problem is that Wilhelm is not even able to hit the mark of a stuffed cow before a mysterious creature with a wooden leg comes to him in the woods. The wooden leg gives him seven magical bullets. Six of them will hit anything Wilhelm aims for, but the seventh belongs to the devil...

The Black Rider builds on an old German fairytale, Der Freischütz, as in Carl Maria von Weber's opera by the same title. William Burroughs and Tom Waits have with Robert Wilson created a fabulous version in tune with the spirit of the 20th century, in which playing and imagination stand side by side with dead seriousness.

The Black Rider was performed for the first time in 1990 at Thalia Theater in Hamburg, and has been a great success all over the world since then.

The myth of William S. Burroughs
In the magazine det norske (literally: The Norwegian, the season program of The Norwegian Theatre) Jón Sveinbjørn Jónsson writes this: "The myth William S. Burroughs spun around himself was his way to handle the world after killing his wife, Joan Vollmer Adams, in 1951.

Burroughs needed money and wanted to sell a weapon, a 380 Star Automatic, but the buyer was not at home when Burroughs got there. But there was a party going, and his wife was there. 'It is time to do our William Tell act', he is supposed to have said, drunk, and she, as drunk, is supposed to have laughed and put the glass on her head. He shot. The glass fell unharmed to the floor, but Joan was shot through the temple.

'You see, some bullets are special for a single target, a certain stag or a certain person, and no matter where you aim, that's where the bullet will end up', as the line goes in The Black Rider."


The Norwegian Theatre,, 15.10.2012,

Other participants
Performance dates
September 4, 1998Hovudscenen – National premiere, Norway
Press coverage

Yngvar Ystvedt said this on the radio channel NRK P2:

"The devil was to the highest degree present in this strange, yes, unique play about hunting and weapons, bullets and explosives, drugs and narcotics, love and hate. The devil directed it all, with his promises to those selling themselves to him. But a totally dark piece it was not – rather the opposite, it was some of the most feisty, funniest, spryest I have seen. To a high degree something new. Something surprising, unpredictable. Was it a musical? Not just that. An opera parody? That, too – and amazingly funny as such. A play about the old, German legend about the shooter who could hit anything he pointed at because he was devoted to Evil? Or a twisted modern play about true morals and the truly immoral in the society we all live in? The Black Rider was all this, and more: A new and incredibly involving theatre form." 


The Norwegian Theatre,, 15.10.2012,