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opera in three acts

Music by Scott Joplin
Libretto by the composer
About Treemonisha

Treemonisha became Scott Joplin's obsession after its composition sometime in the first decade of this century. In 1911 he published the piano score, and in 1915 he held a trial reading for potential backers of the show. The backers were not interested, however, and the show was not performed in full until 1972, in Atlanta, Georgia, in a concert performance by the Atlanta Symphony and the Morehouse College Music Department, with Robert Shaw conducting. Its professional premiere was with the Houston Grand Opera in May of 1975.

Cast of Characters
Treemonisha Monisha
Remus Ned
Zodzetrick Lucy
Andy Luddud
Cephus Simon
Parson Alltalk
Corn-huskers, conjurors, cotton pickers, visitors, etc.

Act I

In a plantation run by free Blacks, Monisha is approached by a witch doctor, Zodzetrick, who want to sell her a bag of luck. Her husband, Ned, and daughter, Treemonisha, chase the man away; Remus tells him how Treemonisha, "the only educated person of our race," taught him to read, to write, and to reject superstition. The corn-huskers return from the fields and there is a dance, after which Treemonisha starts to make herself a wreath out of the leaves of the tree that stands in front of her cabin. Monisha stops her; she tells her that she is not really her daughter, that she and Ned found her one morning underneath that tree. Treemonisha tells her that she still considers them her parents, and she goes with Lucy into the forset to gather leaves from a different tree, while the rest of the corn-huskers are led in a prayer meeting by Parson Alltalk. Lucy returns alone, however, and tells them that the conjurors have kidnapped Treemonisha. The men run off to rescue her; Remus, after stopping to disguise himself with a scarecrow from the field, follows them.

Act II

At their meeting in the woods, the conjurors decide that they must punish Treemonisha for trying to turn the people away from superstition by pushing her into a wasp's nest. After passing a ballet of bears, they arrive at the wasp's nest; however, the superstitious conjurors are frightened away by Remus in his scarecrow disguise, whom they take for the devil. As they head home, Remus and Treemonisha pass a group of cotton-pickers finishing work and heading for dinner.


Ned and Monisha are worried about their daughter, but soon she and Remus arrive. They are followed by the corn-husking boys, who have captured two of the conjurors, Zodzetrick and Luddud. The people are ready to beat them for kidnapping Treemonisha, but she tells them to release the conjurors instead. They obey, if reluctantly, as Remus tells them all that two wrongs do not make a right. At Treemonisha's request, they pardon the two conjurors, and all shake hands. As the community asks Treemonisha to be it leader, everyone joins in a dance in celebration.


Scott Joplin


Houston Grand Opera/Gunther Schuller

2 CD / Deutsche Grammophon (1976)

Last update: January 1, 2009