Oct
25

Hadestown

Filed Under (Classics, Greek) by hkasler on 25-10-2015 and tagged ,

Personally, one of my favorite parts of studying classics is finding the best modern takes on these ancient stories. They’re common enough from fabulous movies like “O Brother Where Art Thou?” to great books like the Percy Jackson series and “The Song of Achilles.” I have to say, though, my favorite modern take on the classics is an album called “Hadestown” by the artist Anais Mitchell.

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Hadestown is a ‘folk opera’ set during the American Great Depression that retells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. (Spoilers ahoy! We all know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, but if you would like to find out for yourself how it plays out differently in this different setting, then skip the rest of this paragraph.) Hades is a businessman who owns a gold mine, Persephone runs a speakeasy, and Orpheus works in the goldmine. It’s a bit unclear, but one of two things happens: Eurydice has starved to death because of Orpheus’ meager wages working at the goldmine (I think it’s this one?). But it’s also possible that Eurydice, still alive, ran away to Hades because Orpheus could not support her.  Either way, Orpheus then goes on a quest to get her back from Hades.

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Hadestown features a full cast of influential folk voices, including Justin Vernon and Ani DiFranco, playing Orpheus and Persephone, respectively. Mitchell herself plays Eurydice. The album is one of the highest rated folk albums of all time and, depending on your source, one of the highest rated albums of all time. In this album, Mitchell shows off her stylistic flexibility, transitioning effortlessly from slow orchestral numbers to upbeat love songs and back. The songs are incredibly emotive, underscored by the superb vocal cast.

But enough about praising this music (although I could really go all day!). Listen for yourself! This is the first song from the album, called Wedding Song, in which Orpheus and Eurydice are in love and getting married, but are struggling to afford the ceremony and a life together afterward.



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