Scott Joplin’s Little Known Opera


“Treemonisha” is an opera composed by the famed ragtime composer Scott Joplin.

The fully scored opera which takes place in 1884, encompasses a wide range of musical styles including a ragtime aria with chorus and orchestra titled “A Real Slow Drag” with a theme that champion’s education as the salvation of the African American race. In true operatic form, the work is represented by the heroine and symbolic educator Treemonisha, who runs into trouble with a local band of magicians who kidnap her.

Joplin spend years working on the opera, but could never get anyone to stage the work – not performed in its entirety until 1972, after the discovery of the piano score.

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The musical style of the opera is the popular romantic one of the early 20th century completely invested in Afrocentric folk songs and dances, blues, spirituals, and the iconic use of the call-and-response form.

Placing operatic elements and the popularity of ragtime at the same table, Joplin, the “King Of Ragtime” who died at the age of 49, wanted Treemonisha to represent an entirely new phase of musical art in American opera as a distinctive form of African-American opera within, while offering a moral message about social advancement and freedom through education (For more on Joplin visit The Odyssey Series page on Higher Ground).

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