Jun 13 2023


12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Why Treemonisha Now?

Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha is having a moment. Completed in 1910, the work had to wait 62 years for its first staged performance. After its successful fully-staged premieres in 1972 (Morehouse College) and 1975 (Houston Grand Opera), Joplin’s tale of community, magic, and empowerment became an occasional feature on American and European stages. But over the last few years, the work has enjoyed a resurgence. In the 2022-2023 season alone, high-profile productions by Volcano Theatre, Opera Theatre of St Louis, and Isango Ensemble are bringing the work to audiences in Canada, the US, France, and Luxembourg. This panel discussion brings together academics and opera professionals to ask why Joplin’s work is enjoying such popularity at this particular social and political moment. Representatives of Volcano Theatre, OTSL, and Isango Ensemble will talk about Treemonisha’s relevance for our time. Discussing each production’s transformations and reimaginations of Joplin’s original, the panel will consider the shifting portrayals of Blackness in different recontextualisations of the work, and its newly emergent possibilities for reparative musical representation. Discussion points may include, but won’t be limited to:

  • The (racialised) tension between magic and reason
  • Black feminist logics
  • Recomposition and the challenge of musical reconstruction
  • The meanings of community and localisation in Canadian, American, and South African contexts


This event was recorded. Watch it on Vimeo:


  1. Robert Zorowitz

    I hope the conversation will include Joplin’s key role in the evolution of American music, both concert/art music and popular music, as well as the belated recognition of that role due to the persistent stereotyping and outright bigotry.


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