wpe1.jpg (5792 Byte) Project "Scenes and motives from 'Treemonisha' "

Opera in three acts - Text and music by Scott Joplin
presented by the Ragtime Society Frankfurt and Lilo's Puppet Show

Words by Klaus Pehl and Reimer von Essen

Orchestration from Scott Joplin's piano originals by Klaus Pehl

Puppets, Bühnenbild und Scenes by Lilo Schütrumpf

premiere at the 8th of May in Schwalbach am Taunus under direction of Matthias Warzecha

Wiesbaden 15.12.1995tree.jpg (26286 Byte)

Cast

Program

Scott Joplin's Preface to "Treemonisha"

Scott Joplin and his opera "Treemonisha"

Cast

Narrator Reimer von Essen/Lil von Essen

Lilo's Puppet Show: Lilo Schütrumpf, Heinz Rauschelbach, Stefan Schütrumpf/Reni Voigt

Ragtime Society Frankfurt under direction of Matthias Warzecha/Thomas Spahn

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Programm & Piano Midis

ACT 1
No. 1 Overture
No. 2 The Bag of Luck
No. 3 The Corn-Huskers
No. 4 We're Goin' Around
No. 5 The Wreath
No. 6 The Sacred Tree *
No. 7 Surprised
No. 8 Treemonisha's Bringing Up
No. 9 Good Advice *
No. 10 Confusion

ACT 2
No. 11 Superstition *
No. 12 Treemonisha in Peril
No. 13 Frolic of the Bears
No. 14 The Wasp Nest
 
No. 15 The Rescue
No. 16 We Will Rest Awhile
No. 17 Going Home
No. 18 Aunt Dinah Has Blowed De Horn

ACT 3
No. 19 Prelude to Act 3

No. 20 I Want to See My Child
No. 21 Treemonisha's Return
No. 22 Wrong is Never Right
*
No. 23 Abuse
No. 24 When Villains Ramble Far And Near
No. 25 Conjurors Forgiven
No. 26 We Will Trust You As Our Leader
No. 27 A Real Slow Drag

Orchestration Klaus Pehl: vollständig/complete  , Auszüge/excerpts *; Midis Dank/Thanks an/to: Gary Davis

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Scott Joplin's preface to his opera "Treemonisha"

TREEMONISHA
Opera in Three Acts
WORDS AND MUSIC BY
SCOTT JOPLIN
(Story Fictitious)
Act I-Morning. Act II-Aftemoon. Act III-Evening.
Preface.

The Scene of the Opera is laid on a plantation somewhere in the State of Arkansas, Northeast of the Town of Texarkana and three or four miles from the Red River. The plantation being surrounded by a dense forest.

There were several negro families living on the plantation and other families back in the woods.

In order that the reader may better comprehend the story, I will give a few details regarding the Negroes of this plantation from the year 1866 to the year 1884.

The year 1866 finds them in dense ignorance, with no-one to guide them, as the white folks had moved away shortly after the Negroes were set free and had left the plantation in charge of a trustworthy negro servant named Ned.

All of the Negroes, but Ned and his wife Monisha,were superstitious, and believed in conjuring. Monisha, being a woman, was at times impressed by what the more expert conjurers would say.

Ned and Monisha had no children and they had often prayed that their cabin home might one day be brightened by a child that would be a companion for Monisha when Ned was away from home. They had dreams, too, of educating the child so that when it grew up it could teach the people around them to aspire to something better and higher than superstition and conjuring.

The prayers of Ned and Monisha were answered in a remarkable manner. One morning in the middle of September 1866, Monisha found a baby under a tree that grew in front of her cabin. It proved to be a light - brown - skinned girl about two days old. Monisha took the baby into the cabin, and Ned and she adopted it as their own

They wanted the child, while growing up, to love them as it would have loved its real parents, so they decided to keep it in ignorance of the manner in which it came to them until old enough to understand. They realized, too , that if the neighbors knew the facts, they would some day tell the child, so , to deceive them, Ned hitched up his mules and, with Monisha and the child, drove over to a family of old friends who lived twenty miles away and whom they had not seen for three years. They told their friends that the child was just a week old .

Ned gave these people six bushels of corn and forty pounds of meat to allow Monisha and the child to stay with them for eight weeks,which Ned thought would benefit the health of Monisha. The friends willingly consented to have her stay with them for that length of time.

Ned went back alone to the plantation and told his old neighbors that Monisha, while visiting some old friends, had become mother of a girl baby.

The neighbors were, of course, greatly surprised , but were compelled to believe that Ned's story was true.

At the end of the eight weeks Ned took Monisha and the child home and received the congratulations of his neighbors and friends and was delighted to find that scheme had worked so well.

Monisha, at f irst, gave the child her own name; but, when the child was three years old, she was so fond of playingunder the tree where she was found that Monisha gave her the name of Tree - Monisha.

When Treemonisha was seven years old Monisha arranged with a white family that she would do their washing and ironing and Ned would chop their wood if the lady of the house would give Treemonisha an education, the schoolhouse being too far away for the child to attend. The lady consented and as a result Treemonisha was the only educated person in the neighborhood, the other children being still in ignorance on account of their inability to travel so far to school.

Zodzetrick, Luddud and Simon, three very old men, earned their living by going about the neighborhood practicing conjuring, selling little luck- bags and rabbits‘ feet, and confirming the people in their superstition

melodie.gif (6398 Byte)This strain of music is the principal strain in the Opera, and represents the happiness of the people when they feel free from the conjurors and their spells of superstition.

The opera begins in September 1884. Treemonisha, being eighteen years old, now starts upon her career as a teacher and leader.

SCOTT JOPLIN.

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Scott Joplin and his opera "Treemonisha"

Only at the beginning of the century, when African-Americans had had already much contact with european music, and only in the urban centres with a starting music industry pleased to absorb the rhythm oriented music of the former slaves, the music could have developed which lateron was called ragtime. The structure, the harmonies and the metrum followed very much the european society and marching music of the 19th century. But the special charming appeal of ragtime, the syncopatred melodies derives from the banjo pickers in the camps of the cotton plantations. The prehistory of the - till that time not written - music goes back to the carribean region (rediscovered for the music entertainment to a wider extent only in the last years) and back to Africa.

joplin.gif (7138 Byte) Scott Joplin fitted very well in these contradictions. He was born in  1868 in Texarkana near Little Rock. His parents were just released slaves who earned their living with 'Hausmeisterei' and washing. The contact to a white family (similar as told in the preface to "Treemonisha") supplied Scott with the musical education as a piano player by a German music teacher. The travelling years as a solo pianist, cornet player or leader of vocal groups led Joplin 1896 to Sedalia, a little town between St. Louis and Kansas City. Already with one of his first compositions - the "Maple Leaf Rag" - he had his break through. A white ice merchant, John Stark, recognized his chance and started publishing sheet music. The was the music business in the pre-record era. He gave Scott Joplin - the first time for a black musician - a small amount of royalties for selling his composition. John Stark invented the slagan   "Classic Rags" in his advertisements when he had to struggle against the almighty publishing houses of Tin Pan Alley.

As his colleagues Joplin took part in ragtime contests at the world exhibitions in St. Louis 1904 and Chicago 1906. But he had further reaching ambitions than the most of them, probably in connection with his profound knowledge of european music. These ambitions were not easy to sell.  1906 he wrote a ragtime ballett. John Stark after a long time of hesitation only published a shortened version. An opera "A Guest Of Honour" was lost. 1909 Joplin went to New York, mainly to bring his second opera on stage. In vain: no producer was ready to try. A serious opera composed by an African-American with a story the message of which was apparently directed to his folks was not welcome at the new stages. Inspite of his frustration before his death in 1917 he predicted that in fifty years time he would get the well deserved recognition. 1974 at the grand opera in Houston - the ragtime revival reached its summit - the first and more or less the only performance of "Treemonisha" on a stage took place. The opera consists beside well worked out arias an recitativos some of the prettiest and most dancable rags by Scott Joplin.


Klaus Pehl, Frankfurt am Main, 12.12.01 klaus.pehl@ragtime-society.de

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