Ragtime & Opera

I’ve been reading about Scott Joplin, and read about his (extremely underrated, largely ignored) opera Treemonisha: written by Joplin in the early 1900s, it went by ignored & rejected, receiving no backing from any of the people Joplin performed it to and catalyzing Joplin’s breakdown and depression and all. I was shocked and hugely saddened to read further that he was buried in (as Wikipedia rather tragipoetically puts it) “a pauper’s grave”, which was unmarked until 1974. This man gave the world possibly the greatest ragtime tunes in the world, and they first let him die broken, and then left him to disrespectful anonymity? Disgusting.

Everyone should go listen to this lovely arrangement of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha by Sue Keller (embedded below). I have little musical understanding so I can’t strictly say if it sounds ‘correct’ or not (I can say, as can anyone, that it sounds good!) – but as a taster of the opera, it sounds delicious; I love the idea of this extravagant & classical European form filtering down to a man who sandpapered it with his own radically different world; Arkansas and sprawling acres. And I love what Joplin did with these two radically different worlds.


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