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Stanford Live

Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha

Courtesy of Stanford Live

In 1911, famed ragtime composer Scott Joplin wrote Treemonisha, the first opera about life post-slavery by a black person. Fusing classical, folk and gospel, it bore ragtime’s syncopations. Thematically, it was ahead of its time. But nobody would risk producing a black composer’s work, and five years later Joplin was buried in a pauper’s grave and the work was thrown away. Now, reconstructed with new libretto and orchestrations by Leah-Simone Bowen, Treemonisha lives again.