Anaïs Mitchell has created a folk opera based on the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hadestown. Its perfect relevance to where our world is at right now is felt as much as understood. Anaïs asks impossible questions and leaves us not with answers but with freer minds. This project has been long in the works, and the execution is impeccable. With illustrations by Peter Nevins, art direction by Brian Grunert, score by Michael Chorney, production by Todd Sickafoose. With Anaïs Mitchell as Eurydice, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) as Orpheus, Ani DiFranco as Persephone, Greg Brown as Hades, Ben Knox Miller as Hermes, and Petra, Rachel and Tanya Hayden as the Fates. Originally staged in Vermont, the Hadestown CD has been re-imagined as a stand-alone song cycle, not a “soundtrack”.
The great songwriter Danny Schmidt sent this out to his list:
“I want to tell y’all about a friend’s project that was just released because it has special significance to me, musically and personally . . .
My friend Anaïs Mitchell just released her new album Hadestown yesterday. It’s a work of pure genius, and almost mind-boggling focus and dedication for many years. Since our first tour together in 2005, it’s been personally inspiring for me to watch Anaïs maintain her commitment to this project, and through her force of will and vision, drive the writing into deeper and deeper literary grounds, while raising the production concept to higher and more grandiose elevations.
And it’s complete now, and available for all of us to marvel over.
Hadestown is a folk opera, a retelling of the story of Orpheus, set in a sort of post-apocalyptic depression era version of Hades, tied together with brilliant songs of contemporary social, political and archetypal commentary. Greg Brown sings the role of Hades. Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) sings the role of Orpheus. Ani DiFranco sings the role of Persephone. And Anaïs, herself, sings the role of Eurydice. The whole production is deep. And immaculate.
And if Anaïs doesn’t get raised onto a pedestal with the world’s finest artists from this endeavor, then there should be no pedestal. So I’m helping spread the word to y’all. I hope you will explore the project. And I hope you’ll help spread the word further. For the sake of art.
All the best —
“People often ask why I wanted to retell this particular myth,” says Mitchell. “The truth is, the first few songs just came out of nowhere. It wasn’t an academic idea or anything; the songs led to the myth, not the other way around. But once I got going I recognized in the Orpheus character something a lot of artists feel: his heartbreaking optimism. In the underworld, the rules are the rules, you don’t get a dead person back—but Orpheus believes if he can just sing/play/write something beautiful enough, maybe he can do the impossible, move the heart of stone, get through to someone. I’ve felt that feeling…”