Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera: Hadestown


I’ve wanted to share about this album for a couple of years. The album, Hadestown, is the creation of folk singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell (who has released a more recent album this year, Young Man in America, which is awesome too). Hadestown was released in 2010 on Righteous Babe Records (Ani DiFranco‘s label), and I loved it from the first listen. I also found the concept of a folk opera fascinating. The story is based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

According to Wikipedia, “Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music.”

It’s got a host of guests playing different parts of the opera including Ani herself, Iowa folk legend Greg Brown, Ben Knox Miller of The Low Anthem, The Haden Triplets, and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.  Anaïs plays the part of Eurydice and Justin that of Orpheus. From the album website: “…in Mitchell’s hands, the familiar saga is reimagined as unfolding in a version of the U.S. that simultaneously evokes our Depression-era past, the current financial disaster (though it was written before the stock market collapse), and a post-apocalyptic future. It’s a land where people hide behind walls in a misguided attempt to preserve their ‘freedom’ and protect their riches.” The album was also nominated for a Grammy for its cover art.

This opening track, “Wedding Song”, shows the love between Orpheus and Eurydice. I’ve posted this song before in my folk love song post, but it’s so good, it deserves a second play. I love Justin Vernon with his ethereal vocals.

Here is a live version of “Way Down Hadestown” from McCabe’s in Santa Monica. Why did I not know about this show?! I’m not sure who are the guests here. The album version of this song features Ani DiFranco, Justin Vernon, and Ben Knox Miller:

“Why We Build The Wall” featuring the gruff vocals of Greg Brown:

4 comments

  1. I don’t remember seeing Anais Mitchell on your blog before. I must have missed that one. But I am glad to learn about her this time. I especially liked The Wedding Song.

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  2. Wow! Anais has really took off since I first saw her two years ago in August at the Subdued String Band Jamboree, east of Bellingham, WA. in Deming. She was quite impressive. I picked up her “Hymns for the Exiled” album. Very good stuff, well written songs. Mitchell is no intellectual or musical slouch. I do need to get Hadestown.

    One thing, though, about her at the music festival. Very sweet person, but, um, when she walked around in platform heels, wearing a very cute summer dress, working a hula-hoop, and blowing bubbles… It was like all the dudes were quoting that Ice Cube movie, “Friday”: “Day-um!” If not audible, definitely under the breath. One guy sporting a van dyke noticed the effect and fell into hysterics.

    Us guys can be such hapless boobs.

    –Dave E.

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