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Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha

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Luminato Festival Toronto and TO Live Present
Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha
~ a musical reimagining ~ 

Produced by Volcano in association with The Canadian Opera Company, Soulpepper, and Moveable Beast 

By Scott Joplin, Book & Libretto Adapted by: Leah-Simone Bowen, Co-Librettist: Cheryl Davis
Co-Arrangers: Jessie Montgomery & Jannina Norpoth

Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha

Originally written by Scott Joplin in 1911, Treemonisha is one of the few classical music pieces about the immediate post-slavery era written by a Black person who actually lived through it. Fusing European classical music with the sounds of ragtime, folk, and gospel to create a thrilling and distinct sound, and introducing a young woman protagonist chosen by her community to lead, Joplin’s nearly-lost opera was far ahead of its time. It was also entirely ignored by the white opera establishment. Joplin never saw his opera produced. His orchestrations were lost and only a single vocal score survived – thanks to Joplin’s own efforts at preservation.  

Working from this original vocal score and featuring the first all-Black orchestral ensemble in Canadian opera history, the new arrangements and orchestrations by Jessie Montgomery (Sphinx Medal of Excellence and ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Award winner) and Jannina Norpoth (Grammy nominee) merge musical vocabularies, reflecting the major themes of the reimagined version: split identity – African and American – and the role of one’s ancestors in coming to terms with the realities of a new land.  

Led by a predominantly Black female creative team from across North America, Joplin’s compelling story of a young Black woman who discovers the truth of her past and leads her community to a revolutionary future has been reimagined with a new story and libretto by playwright and broadcaster Leah-Simone Bowen (The Secret Life of Canada), working with Emmy-nominated co-librettist Cheryl L. Davis. Treemonisha is conducted by the first Black woman conductor in Canadian opera history, Panamanian-American Kalena Bovell, and directed by award-winning, internationally acclaimed Canadian stage director Weyni Mengesha. 

Photo of Neema Bickersteth as Treemonisha by Dahlia Katz. Artwork by Lost in the Island.


June 6, 2023 (Preview)
June 7, 2023 (Preview)
June 8, 2023 (Preview)
June 10, 2023
June 11, 2023
June 14, 2023
June 15, 2023
June 16, 2023
June 17, 2023


27 Front St E
Toronto, ON M5E 1B4 Canada
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Principal Cast
Neema Bickersteth, Treemonisha
Andrea Baker, Monisha
Kristin Renee Young, Lucy
SATE, Nana Buluku
Cedric Berry, Zodzerick
Ashley Faatoalia, Remus
Nicholas Davis, Ned
Marvin Lowe, Pastor Alltalk
Queen Hezumuryango, Ensemble Mezzo-Soprano
Jim Williams, Ensemble Low Baritone
Robert Ball, Ensemble Baritone
Gospel Choir TBD

Creative Team
Scott Joplin, Composer
Leah-Simone Bowen, Story and Libretto
Cheryl L. Davis, Co-Librettist
Jessie Montgomery, Co-Arranger/Orchestrator
Jannina Norpoth, Co-Arranger/Orchestrator
Weyni Mengesha, Stage Director
Kalena Bovell, Conductor
Esie Mensah, Choreographer
Camellia Koo, Set Designer
Rachel Forbes, Associate Set Designer
Marci Rodgers, Costume Designer
Kimberly Purtell, Lighting Designer
Rich Coburn, Associate Conductor
Michael Mohammed, Assistant Stage Director
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Choreographic Consultant
Rose-Mary Harbans, Choreography Rehearsal Director
Deanna Downe, Dramaturge

Tanya Charles Iveniuk, Violin 1
Andrew Forde, Violin 2
Lena Fankhauser, Viola
Valérie Despax, Cello
Brandyn Lewis, Bass
Imani Duhe, Trumpet
Zuri Wells, Percussion
Tunde Jegede, Kora

Treemonisha has been co-commissioned by Apollo Theater (Harlem); BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music); the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity; Luminato Festival Toronto; Minnesota Opera; National Arts Centre, Ottawa, through the National Creation Fund; Southbank Centre, London; Stanford Live with the assistance of the Hewlett Foundation; TO Live; and Washington Performing Arts.

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