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King of RagtimeScott Joplin and His Era$
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Edward A. Berlin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199740321

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740321.001.0001

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Observations about Treemonisha

Observations about Treemonisha

(p.255) Chapter 16 Observations about Treemonisha
King of Ragtime

Edward A. Berlin

Oxford University Press

Among Joplin’s aims in writing Treemonisha were a desire to demonstrate an artistic range that exceeded ragtime; express his belief that education would improve the condition of the African American community; create a memorial for his young wife, Freddie. The opera juxtaposes the old ways of ignorance and superstition, represented by the conjurors, against the modern thinking of the young, educated Treemonisha. Most of the music is not ragtime-related, but some of the best moments are. Some of the musical numbers reflect styles he would have witnessed during childhood. The choruses show skills he developed as a quartet singer, and include up to eight voices. The libretto shows influence of Joel Chandler Harris’s Brer Rabbit stories, an ambivalence about religion, and comments upon the then-raging battle over alcoholic beverages. The opera’s Preface gives hints of what was on Joplin’s mind as he was composing, and supplies unmistakable links to Freddie.

Keywords:   Treemonisha, opera, Freddie, education, conjurors, religion

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