Scott Joplin: Treemonisha
Audio Recording, New World Records 80720 (2 CDs with 116 pp. companion book)
Scott Joplin’s (1867–1917) opera Treemonisha is the only opera in existence about the Reconstruction era African-American experience written by a black man who actually lived through it. This fact alone makes the opera a work of tremendous significance. Further, Joplin’s music is profoundly expressive and as stylistically unique as anything ever created in America. Through his score and libretto, Joplin vividly documented a culture that has left us few other artifacts: The echoes of the “field hollers,” spirituals, fiddle tunes, revival hymns, and ancient African dances of his rural childhood are all heard, along with the dialects of his people rising up from slavery. Yet for all of its obvious significance, Treemonisha has been a deeply misunderstood work. The opera was complex and virtually unprecedented, two reasons why 1910s America could not embrace it. And tragically, Joplin's original 1911 materials for the opera were almost entirely destroyed in the early 1960s. In the early 1970s several attempts were made to reconstruct it, but for the most part these were not concerned with the opera’s cultural origins or historic authenticity. But now, on the centennial of this extraordinary creation, comes this new recording of a completely authentic reconstruction of Treemonisha by Rick Benjamin, based on eighteen years of research.
Benjamin, Rick, "Scott Joplin: Treemonisha" (2011). Other Faculty Research and Publications. 12.