Mar 24, 2022 - Sale 2598

Sale 2598 - Lot 258

Price Realized: $ 40,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
(ENTERTAINMENT--MUSIC.) Scott Joplin. Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts. 230 pages. Large 4to, original cloth-backed printed wrappers, moderate wear and soiling; minimal dampstaining in margins, a bit musty; gift inscription on inner wrapper "To Etta Moten from Mrs. Scott Joplin, June 18, 1939." New York: Scott Joplin, [1911]

Additional Details

An ambitious and long-forgotten composition by one of America's first great Black composers. An opera set on a post-Reconstruction Arkansas plantation, it incorporates ballet, arias, and other classical forms in addition to the ragtime which Joplin was best known for. It tells the story of a young woman struggling to free her community from ignorance and superstition.

Joplin self-published this score in 1911, but was never able to mount a full production, just a disastrous 1915 read-through, and a performance of one ballet by a school group. With his death in 1917, the work fell into near-total obscurity. During a ragtime revival in the 1970s, the score was rediscovered. The first full performance was not until 1972, long after Joplin's death; modern dance master Katherine Dunham was the director. It has been staged several times since, to glowing reviews.

This copy was a personal gift from Joplin's widow Lottie Stokes Joplin (circa 1875-1953), who remained in New York after his death. It was given to Etta Moten Barnett (1901-2004), an established singer and actress who had performed at the White House.

Only one other copy of this original score has been traced at auction, which sold at Swann on 15 February 2001, lot 290.