"Joplin's opera is a triumph of artistry and human spirit," headlined one critic.
Masquerading as a folk fable, Treemonisha conveys a significant social message, astonishing for its period and still valid as a basic tenet of liberation: that education is the road to salvation. Joplin, a man ahead of his time in more ways than one, also dipped into the area of women's liberation, allowing his 18-year-old educated heroine, to become the leader of her people.
Former slaves Ned and Monisha found an abandoned baby girl, under a tree in front of their cabin. They named her Treemonisha, and raised her as their own. When Treemonisha was 7 years old, Monisha and Ned bartered to do extra chores for a white family if the lady of the house gave Treemonisha an education.
The action begins when Treemonisha, now 18 years old, starts upon her career as a teacher and leader, educating her community to rise above the influences and temptations of the conjurers, with their bags of luck and goofer dust.
Joplin's acclaimed opera has been given a thrilling orchestration by Gunther Schuller, world-renowned music scholar and recipient of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for music.