Get to learn about the story before attending the Opera
Treemonisha takes place in September 1884 in an Arkansas community of sharecroppers on an abandoned plantation. Though the community is near Joplin’s boyhood town of Texarkana, it is isolated within a dense forest, symbolizing both the isolation of African Americans from the rest of American society and a place that has not been reached by the light of reason and education.
The community is led by Ned and Monisha, who had remained childless until 1866 when they found an infant girl under a tree outside their home. They take the child in as their own and name her Treemonisha, after her mother Monisha and because of the child’s fondness for the tree under which she was found, they prefix her name with “Tree” and she becomes Treemonisha. They are determined to have her educated and arrange, in exchange for household and yard chores, for a nearby white woman to teach her to read.
At age 18, Treemonisha is ready to lead her community out of ignorance. Her major attack is against the control of the community by “magic” tricks and superstition represented by the conjurors who victimize the gullible villagers. The conjurors, in an effort to preserve their way of life and means of income, abduct her. They are about to throw her into a wasp’s nest when she is rescued by her friend Remus. Her neighbors recognize the liabilities of their ignorance and acknowledge her as their teacher and leader. Her first lesson, one that meets resistance, is that the remorseful abductors be forgiven.
Will you follow me? Will the men follow me? And they sing back yes and together they sing and dance the spirited and joyful song A Slow Drag and happiness explodes on stage and off!!
Education is the Key to a free and full life is the overarching theme of the entire opera, which condensed will run for 70 minutes---.
Significance of the Performance
Performing Treemonisha will introduce a long overdue cultural legacy written by Scott Joplin to America’s children and in particular to African American children. Help us bring this awesome picayune of Americana out of the shadows and into the hearts of the children of the U.S Opera NOVA is proud and honored to be the first professional opera company to bring Treemonisha out of the shadows into the hearts of America’s children, and public awareness. And, Joplin’s heroine into the ranks of Carmen, Aida, and Tosca. Joplin‘s message is that there's hope, happiness and a new life through education, follow Treemonisha who at 18 years is ready to lead her people because she is an educated person.
Production of Treemonisha may well promote for African American students heightened feelings of self-esteem and pride in their own cultural heritage. What a gift Joplin left to all children in the format of an opera: Education is the key to life!! Formal school was denied to Joplin as an African American, he was a celebrity known as the King of Ragtime well before he finished his opera in 1910, however, this self- grown musical genius was driven to compose an opera always considered the pinnacle of the arts.