Stanford Live and Weyni Mengesha have been awarded a $150,000 grant from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation to commission and produce a contemporary reimagining of Scott Joplin's 1911 opera "Treemonisha," the foundation announced this week.
It is one of 10 new recipients of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, a five-year, $8 million initiative supporting arts and nonprofit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Treemonisha" will boast a new libretto and a range of musical styles, including jazz; traditional and contemporary classical music; West African idioms; and the genre Joplin helped popularize, ragtime.
"Joplin's story is extraordinarily progressive for its time, with the female protagonist elected leader of her community decades before women and most people of color could vote. Despite his fame, Joplin could not find backing for an opera by a black composer with an all-black cast of characters, and the full opera was never staged," according to the Hewlett Foundation's announcement. The story focuses on a community split in the aftermath of slavery.
"For a great many people in this New World, and for me as a Black woman, this is a resonant story. And this particular story being resurrected now, at this particular point in history, is no small thing," Mengesha noted in a press release.
The world premiere will be a cornerstone performance of Stanford Live's 2019-20 season, which will focus on art and politics and female leadership.