Treemonisha by Scott Joplin

A wonderful opera, it is rarely performed for reasons that escape me. It is a musical masterpiece of the beginning of the 20th century by the great ragtime musician and composer Scott Joplin.

Interestingly, Scott Joplin finished Treemonisha in 1910 and it was first published in 1911. It was never produced during his lifetime. The sole performance was a concert read-through with piano in 1915 at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem, funded by Joplin himself.

Later, Katherine Dunham directed its world premiere in 1970 in Atlanta. From time to time it has been produced since then in small productions around the country. The interesting thing about the date of 1911 is that Joe Turner's Come and Gone is also set in 1911.

Synopsis: "The opera is concerned with the plight of the newly-freed slaves who, because they lack education, fall easy prey to conjurers and superstition. The story takes place after the American Civil War, on a plantation in the South. Treemonisha -- found under a sacred tree as an orphan -- is a young girl who is the only educated person in her black community. She refuses to accept the superstitions of her people. Angry with her denouncements, the conjurers-men who make their living by preying on the superstitions of others-kidnap her. As they are about to thrust her into a wasp's nest, her boyfriend Remus rescues her. She then returns to her people, and they ask her to be their leader. At the end of the opera, she prepares to embark on an educational campaign. The liberation of a people through education and the concept of women's liberation are the crux of Joplin's message. Joplin focuses on the need for education to eradicate prejudice, superstition, and ignorance."
This performance which is available on videotape, is an excellent job from the Houston Grand Opera on PBS Great Performances in 1986. Citation is available on IMDB at http://akas.imdb.com/title/tt0459664/

The cast includes Obba Babatunde as Zodzetrick, Delores Ivory as Monisha and Carmen Balthrop as Treemonisha.

A little bit more on this on the Blues People-The Music blog at:


This is a pretty good link who anybody who needs to know something about Joplin fairly quickly.  There's a lot to know. 

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