When you think about the musical tradition of ragtime, Scott Joplin is probably among the first names that comes to mind, right? He wrote countless piano tunes filled with those ragged rhythms, but did you know that he also took his approach to the stage. Greetings – I’m Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy you and I are going to take a look at a once long-lost opera by Scott Joplin – one that he called Treemonisha.

After completing the opera, Treemonisha, in 1910, Joplin sent a copy of it to the American Musician and Art Journal. They gave the composition an incredible review, but unfortunately, it wasn’t fully staged due to broad disinterest and the prevailing racial climate of the time. In 1972, the opera finally premiered in Atlanta, highlighting the historical significance of Joplin’s work not only on the ivories, but on the opera stage, as well.

The story of this opera continued over the decades following its premiere, with one of the latest productions of this work taking place in Canada in June of 2023. Scott Joplin, himself, never got to see his ragtime opera in its final form, but thankfully, his dedication to this sort of Black art is etched firmly into the pages of music history, earning him a spot among classical music’s most Noteworthy.

Noteworthy is a production of WDAV, classical public radio.