RAJENDRA RAMOON MAHARAJ
Artist and Cultural Activist
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) has announced the stories of three ground-breaking 20-minute operas commissioned for its 2023 New Works Collective. Five composers and librettists have deftly woven together musical influences spanning rock, funk, jazz, blues, and more to create a soundscape that is wholly unique and completely American. These cross-genre works explore themes of female empowerment, free speech, Black queer joy, and belonging, and will debut March 16-18, 2023 at the Catherine B. Berges Theatre at St. Louis’ Center of Creative Arts (COCA). Tickets are $35-$55 and are now on sale at ExperienceOpera.org/NWC.
First announced in February 2022, OTSL’s New Works Collective is the first initiative by an American opera company that invites open submissions from across the country and allows its community (via a panel of local residents) to independently select projects for further development. The panel includes individuals from backgrounds historically underrepresented in opera, ranging from artists, arts leaders, and storytellers to activists and community advisors. From 2023 through 2025, the panel will select three projects per year for OTSL to develop, workshop, and premiere.
“What’s really cool about this program is that this has never actually been done before,” said Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, stage director and community consultant for the New Works Collective. “Usually in this industry, an institution tells artists what they can do. But by giving the power to the community, this is the first time where the community really has a voice and can choose artists who may otherwise have been bypassed. This is a north star moment for American opera, and I hope that many, many will follow for years to come.”
Opera Theatre of St. Louis
May 20, 2023 - June 24, 2023
Directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj
Sometimes out of the deepest tragedy springs the greatest hope. Embark on a life-affirming journey of love and creativity in Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha, re-imagined with a new prologue and epilogue by composer Damien Sneed and librettist Karen Chilton. As Joplin celebrates his wedding to his new bride, Freddie Alexander, he is inspired to write a masterpiece — with Freddie as his muse. His heroine will be called Treemonisha, and she will lead her community into a bright and bountiful future of education, opportunity, and prosperity.
Although Treemonisha was published in 1911, Joplin never lived to see a fully realized stage production. However, the legacy of his artistry only continued to grow through his final years and following his death. In 1976, Joplin posthumously received the Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to American music. This new edition of Treemonisha celebrates the strength, beauty, and wisdom of Black women and brings back to light a forgotten figure of history — Freddie Alexander Joplin.