Judith Weir’s work is often inspired by narrative, folklore and theatre. This creepy-crawly work was inspired by the novel Die Schwarze Spinne by Jeremias Gotthelf, a tale about an evil, venomous spider – including heartless Count, heroic village maiden, and a truly otherworldly Green Huntsman – and a 1983 news story about the mysterious deaths of the archaeologists who opened the tomb of Casimir IV in Krakow in the 1970’s. There are spoken parts bridging the two stories.
Weir employs many musical languages in this alternately boisterous and sinister work: patter songs, church hymns, recitativo, among them. Weir is not at all precious about voicing, recommending that all the roles be sung at any convenient octave, Altos substituting for basses at the octave if a children’s Chorus is performing the work. The one-act structure works well for young performers.
Judith Weir is one of Britain’s most prolific and successful composers, widely known for her operas like The Vanishing Bridegroom and A Night At The Chinese Opera, and her many Choral works as well as her pieces for Strings and Piano. She was Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival and is a professor at Cardiff University.