The black spider (opera)

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Work data
Title: The black spider
Original language: German
Music: Heinrich Sutermeister
Libretto : Albert Roesler
Literary source: Eponymous novella by Jeremias Gotthelf
Premiere: as radio opera: 1936
Stage version: 1949
Place of premiere: St. Gallen (stage version)
Place and time of the action: Rural place in Switzerland in the Middle Ages

The black spider is an opera in one act by Heinrich Sutermeister . Albert Roesler wrote the libretto . It is based on the novel of the same name by Jeremias Gotthelf . The work was created in 1936 as a radio opera on behalf of Radio Bern. After it had been reworked by the artists into a stage version, the staged premiere took place in St. Gallen in 1949 .


The orchestral line-up of the stage version is unusual and very small: a flute (also piccolo), a clarinet (also bass clarinet), three trumpets, three trombones, percussion (three players), celesta ad libitum , piano, harmonium, a violin, a viola, a violoncello and an organ on stage ad libitum.


After all praying has not helped to banish the plague from the country so far, the resolute farmer Christine decides to personally ask the devil for help. This assures her of his full support. To say goodbye, he presses a kiss on her forehead. Since then, a large black mark has burned at this point.

What hardly anyone wanted to believe before happens: the plague is gradually leaving the village. But with the disappearance of the plague, people are avoiding Christine more and more because they see in her - because of the blemish on her forehead - an assistant to Satan. Desperate, the farmer turns to the pastor. But because he can't help or doesn't want to help, she sees the last resort in the chance to get involved with the devil again. He promises to erase the mark. But this time he demands something in return: A child was born in that house on the mountain slope today. She should take it away from her mother and give it to him before it is baptized. Christine does what the devil told her to do. At first the kidnapping of the baby seems to work, but suddenly the priest stands in her way. He had been able to identify and banish the devil among the dancing people. Cheated for his wages, the devil turns Christine into a black spider. Anyone who comes into contact with it will die. The plague is also returning to the village. Only that house on the mountainside is spared the disease.

The mother knows that the black spider will not rest until it has also killed her child. She lies in wait and awaits her enemy. Finally the time has come: the spider has gained entry into the house on the mountain. A fierce fight breaks out, in which the spider is ultimately destroyed by its mother. Thanks to her inexhaustible love for her child, she managed to defeat the plague. The whole village can breathe easy again.

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