“The themes that composer Scott Joplin was exploring in his masterwork ‘Treemonisha’—feminism and black aspiration—struck [Canadian writer] Leah-Simone Bowen as so ahead of their time that the opportunity to give them a new context … struck her as impossible to pass up,” writes Peter Marks in Saturday’s (1/5) Washington Post. “Bowen and like-minded artists are now developing … an expansively reimagined ‘Treemonisha,’ for which only a piano and vocal score exists…. The Toronto theater company Volcano [will unveil] the revised ‘Treemonisha’ next year in San Francisco and then [take] it on tour … in fall 2020…. Jannina Norpoth … with Jessie Montgomery, is arranging the jazz, blues, barbershop and gospel-inflected score.” Treemonisha, written in 1911 and first performed in 1972, “tells the story of a foundling named Treemonisha, discovered under a tree by a former slave…. Joplin’s forte, however, was not narrative structure…. [The new] version presents ‘Treemonisha’ as the tale of a fractured community of former slaves … [it required] not only a meticulous rewriting of the text, but also a sifting through Joplin’s other compositions…. Norpoth and Montgomery also added African instruments…. ‘Joplin never had his day with his opera,’ Norpoth said. ‘It really was his life’s work.’ ”

Posted January 8, 2019