Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has reimagined Scott Joplin’s opera “Treemonisha.” It has a new prologue and epilogue by composer Damien Sneed and librettist Karen Chilton.
Sometimes referred to as a “ragtime opera” (although Joplin did not refer to it as such) “Treemonisha” encompasses a wide range of musical styles.
The original libretto tells the tale of the adopted daughter of former slaves Ned and Monisha. Because she was found under a tree, the baby is named Treemonisha.
The opera deals with the conflicts in African American culture at the end of the 19th century ꟷ the desire to move into mainstream American society countered by the strange pull of the old African ways and superstitions.
The theme of the work is the importance of an education for both men and women. The piece is set against music that borrows all of the elements of European opera. It then merges these elements with the unique rhythms of ragtime.
This new edition of “Treemonisha” celebrates the strength, beauty, and wisdom of Black women and brings to light a forgotten figure of history, Scott Joplin’s wife Freddie Alexander Joplin.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis presents “Treemonisha,” May 20–Jun. 24, 2023.
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