The Black Spider, an opera for young people by Judith Weir, returns to the stage in a production by Welsh National Opera’s Youth Opera in Cardiff on May 28 and 29.
Weir's opera juxtaposes a Gothic tale set in a remote mountain village with contemporary news reports concerning a mysterious modern-day ‘curse’. There are chilling parallels between the two stories, but can the answer to one be found in the other?
The Black Spider was commissioned by Kent Opera in 1984 and is Weir’s earliest stage work. The composer was challenged to come up with a piece that could be easily performed but nonetheless contained many of the familiar operatic tropes – as a result a heroic soprano who sings on her deathbed, a plainly horrible villain and a credulous chorus all make an appearance in an opera bursting with wit and invention that Weir describes as ‘a historical comic thriller’. It features two main singing roles, numerous smaller roles for singers of all abilities, a chorus and ensemble of flexible instrumentation. An enlarged, German-language version, Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Spinne, was created in 2009.
The operas of Judith Weir
Celebrating her 70th birthday in 2024, Judith Weir is a composer whose music reaches out to the listener with a distinctive and persuasive voice. Her operas, composed over the course of more than 30 years, lie at the heart of her output. They draw on folk tales, myth and legend from diverse cultures across the ages, reshaped with the combination of wit and ingenuity that has become Weir’s hallmark.
Read an overview of Weir's operas.