Sunday, July 24, 2011 Scott Joplin wrote operas 'The Guest of Honor' and 'Treemonisha' as well as Ragtime

[Scott Joplin Piano Rags; Joshua Rifkin, piano; Nonesuch 79159 (1990)]

Albany Times Union
Museum at St. Louis home of the 'King of Ragtime,' Scott Joplin, tells story of the life of a musical pioneer
By Michael Schuman Special to the Times Union
Sunday, July 24, 2011
“At the turn of the 20th century, ragtime was what jazz, rhythm and blues, and hip-hop would be in later decades: cutting-edge music played in not so savory places and an art form that respectable people said was going to be the end of Western civilization as they knew it.

“And nobody wrote and played ragtime as well as a Texas-born itinerant musician named Scott Joplin. The only home where Joplin lived that still stands is a humble yet handsome, brick structure on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis. It is open as a state historic site, serving both as a tribute to Joplin and perhaps the nation's most significant monument to this truly American musical genre. The bottom floor is a mini-museum devoted to ragtime and the early recording industry; the top floor is a recreated turn of the century flat, furnished like Scott Joplin and his wife Belle might have had it during their residency.”

“Joplin tackled more ambitious projects beyond single ragtime tunes. He composed an opera, 'The Guest of Honor,' to commemorate Booker T. Washington's dinner at Teddy Roosevelt's White House. It was performed throughout the Midwest and prairie states in 1903, although some music halls refused to accept the fact that a black man could write an opera and credited 'The Guest of Honor' to 'Scott Joplin's Minstrel Company.' Unfortunately, the sheet music has been lost, so it can never again be performed.

“A second Joplin opera, 'Treemonisha,' tells the story of a post-Civil War black couple who adopt a baby girl who grows up to become a teacher and leader. No music publisher thought it would be a commercial success, and Joplin was unable to sell it. He self-produced and performed it once in 1912, but 'Treemonisha' was soon forgotten -- that is, until 1972 when it was performed in Atlanta. It was later performed on Broadway, and in 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a special Bicentennial Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to American music.” [Scott Joplin is profiled at]

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