A cast of shape-shifters takes us deep into a hallucinogenic nightmare in Malthouse and Victorian Opera’s Black Rider.

When Robert Wilson’s bizarrely beautiful production of The Black Riderplayed at the Sydney Festival in 2005, Matthew Lutton was in the audience and remembers “the spectacle” of “an extraordinary theatrical event.”

Twelve years on, Lutton – now Artistic Director of Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre – is directing the dark, delirious pop opera with songs by Tom Waits and script by William S. Burroughs. “This is a passion project that I’ve been wanting to do for several years,” says Lutton who is helming a co-production between Malthouse and Victorian Opera, with some performances at Melbourne Festival.

Black Rider Kanen Breen, Meow Meow and Paul Capsis in Black Rider. Photo © Zan Wimberley & Magnus Hastings

To bring the theatrical fantasia to macabre life, Lutton has gathered a cast of “some of Australia’s greatest seducers” including Meow Meow, Kanen Breen, Jacqueline Dark, Paul Capsis and Le Gateau Chocolat.

The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bulletsis based on the same German folktale that inspired Weber’s 19th-century opera Der Freischütz. Wilhelm (Breen), a mild-mannered young...