Theatre / Hadestown

Touted as a "folk opera", Hadestown is a musical and (more famously) a Concept Album written and produced by Anais Mitchell. It's a retelling of the Orpheus myth set in a post-apocalyptic world that mimics The Great Depression in the United States. Originally performed as a small-scale stage musical in Vermont, Mitchell extensively revised the work for the 2010 recording, which received critical acclaim. The album version has since been performed live at various locations, including New York and Virginia.

Hadestown opens above-ground, with Eurydice worrying about how her lover Orpheus will provide for her in this poverty-stricken post-apocalyptic world. They arrive at an old train depot, where everyone’s talking about Hadestown, a walled city under the ground. Hades, the enigmatic king of Hadestown, comes calling for Eurydice when Orpheus is gone and seduces her to the wealth and security of his underworld. With directions from Hermes, Orpheus follows Eurydice underground.

Meanwhile, in Hadestown, Hades indoctrinates his worker-citizens, but when he turns his back, his wife Persephone subverts his efforts by plying her contraband from the outside world in a hidden speakeasy. She takes an interest in the newly arrived Orpheus. Eurydice, unaware that her lover is near, laments her decision to follow Hades. Orpheus moves toward her, but is intercepted by the Fates, who tell him struggling is pointless. Orpheus challenges the Fates, and shortly thereafter Hades discovers both Orpheus and the speakeasy.

In the royal bedroom, Persephone appeals to her husband on Orpheus’s behalf. Orpheus, too, appeals to Hades, and his singing starts a riot in Hadestown. Desperate, Hades comes up with a plan: Orpheus can have Eurydice back if he can walk out of the underworld ahead of her without turning around to make sure she’s there. Orpheus and Eurydice begin their ascent, but when Orpheus reaches the surface, he immediately turns around. Since Eurydice is still in the underworld, she becomes permanently trapped there, and Orpheus is left to Walk the Earth alone.

The album stars Mitchell as Eurydice, Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) as Orpheus, Ani DiFranco as Persephone, Greg Brown as Hades, Ben Knox Miller (of The Low Anthem) as Hermes, and the Haden Triplets as the Fates.

  1. "Wedding Song" featuring Justin Vernon (3:18)
  2. "Epic (Part I)" featuring Justin Vernon (2:22)
  3. "Way Down Hadestown" featuring Justin Vernon, Ani DiFranco and Ben Knox Miller (3:33)
  4. "Songbird Intro" (0:24)
  5. "Hey, Little Songbird" featuring Greg Brown (3:09)
  6. "Gone, I'm Gone" featuring The Haden Triplets (1:09)
  7. "When the Chips are Down" featuring The Haden Triplets (2:14)
  8. "Wait for Me" featuring Ben Knox Miller and Justin Vernon (3:06)
  9. "Why We Build the Wall" featuring Greg Brown (4:18)
  10. "Our Lady of the Underground" featuring Ani DiFranco (4:40)
  11. "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)" (3:33)
  12. "Nothing Changes" featuring The Haden Triplets (0:52)
  13. "If it's True" featuring Justin Vernon (3:03)
  14. "Papers (Hades Finds Out)" (1:24)
  15. "How Long?" featuring Ani DiFranco and Greg Brown (3:36)
  16. "Epic (Part II)" featuring Justin Vernon (2:55)
  17. "Lover's Desire" (2:05)
  18. "His Kiss, The Riot" featuring Greg Brown (4:03)
  19. "Doubt Comes In" featuring Justin Vernon (5:32)
  20. "I Raise My Cup to Him" featuring Ani DiFranco (2:10)


  • Adaptation Distillation: The album is a revision/adaptation of a small-scale stage musical (also by Anais Mitchell) that had two runs in Vermont.
  • All There in the Manual: To fully understand the setting and plot, you need to read the history and libretto on the official website.
    • All There in the Script: The workers who sing with Hades in "Why We Build The Wall" are called Cerberus in the lyrics on the official site.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Hadestown encourages the listener to question whether the characters are innocent or at fault for what happens to them, especially in the case of Eurydice.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • Eurydice is repeatedly compared to a songbird, first as an inspiration to Orpheus' own musical talents, his muse. After being seduced by Hades, she's compared to a canary kept in a mine and a caged bird that can no longer fly just as Eurydice can no longer return to the surface.
    • Hades is compared to a snake. Like the biblical snake, Hades is a sly tempter who manipulates Eurydice into ruining her life by offering her a choice to stay in poverty with Orpheus or live in safety and comfort in Hadestown.
  • Bad Samaritan: Hades. He offers Eurydice a way out of poverty and instability, but it's all a front: once he has what he wants from her, he leaves her to work herself to death for him just like all his other workers. In "Way Down Hadestown II", the Fates imply that most of his workers were 'rescued' from similar circumstances.
  • Basso Profundo: Greg Brown as Hades. His voice has been described as "subterranean."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Eurydice wanted to "lie down forever."
  • Big Bad: Hades.
  • Break the Cutie: What poverty and starvation, plus Hades, does to Eurydice.
  • Broken Bird: Persephone.
  • B.S.O.D. Song: "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)" for Eurydice. "If It's True" and "Doubt Comes In" for Orpheus. "His Kiss, The Riot" for Hades.
  • Cabin Fever: In "Our Lady of the Underground."
    Persephone: Six feet under getting under your skin/Cabin fever is a-setting in
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Why We Build The Wall."
  • Counterpoint Duet: "How Long."
  • Crapsack World: Things are bad above ground, where poverty and starvation are always barely an inch away.
    Times being what they are
    Dark and getting darker all the time
    • Crap Saccharine World: For Eurydice, Hadestown; she's built it up in her mind as a paradise of wealth and stability.
    Eurydice: Everybody dresses in clothes so fine/Everybody’s pockets are weighted down/Everybody sipping ambrosia wine/In a goldmine in Hadestown
  • Crowd Song: "Why We Build The Wall."
  • Darkest Hour: "Doubt Comes In."
  • Deal with the Devil: Orpheus makes one with Hades, as in the original myth. He is allowed to bring Eurydice back to the surface unhindered under one condition: she follows behind him, and if he turns to look at her before they've reached the surface she must remain behind forever. Hades correctly guesses that Orpheus won't be able to take it, and he'll turn to look to know that she's still there before they reach the surface.
  • Destructive Romance: Hades and Persephone, touched upon in "How Long". Despite how much they hurt each other just by being near, they still love each other too much to give up on their relationship.
  • Downer Ending: Orpheus looks back just before they're safe, trapping Eurydice in Hadestown forever.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Every time he fails to impress Persephone with his machinery, Hades doubles down, thinking if he makes it more impressive she'll finally get it, when actually she likes him best without all the neon and pretension.
  • Drone of Dread: At the end of "Doubt Comes In," there is a painfully long note when Orpheus looks back at Eurydice too early, breaking his Deal with the Devil.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: Hades' wall isn't keeping out any enemy...
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite his greed and lust for power that leads him to imprison his workers underground until they drop dead, Hades genuinely loves his wife Persephone and wants to make her happy.
  • Everybody Hates Hades
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Oh, yes.
  • Final Love Duet: "Doubt Comes In."
  • Foregone Conclusion: Assuming you're at all familiar with Greek mythology, you can pretty much guess how this one ends- Orpheus fails to bring Eurydice back the surface, and they never see each other again. In the opening song of the theatrical version, "Road to Hell", Hermes outright tells the audience that the story they're about to watch is "a sad tale, it's a tragedy".
  • Greek Mythology
  • Grief Song: Inverted with "I Raise My Cup to Him," as Persephone and Eurydice sing a "reverse elegy" for Orpheus, who escaped Hadestown but now must Walk the Earth alone.
  • Guttural Growler: Greg Brown as Hades.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack/Playing the Heart Strings: "Doubt Comes In."
  • Here We Go Again!: In "Chant", Hermes complains that Hades and Persephone have the same exact fight every year.
  • I Will Find You: Orpheus to Eurydice in "Wait For Me", vowing to track her down in Hadestown after she vanishes.
  • The Ingenue: Eurydice.
  • Let's Duet: Many of the songs — "Wedding Day" (Orpheus and Eurydice), "Hey Little Songbird" (Hades and Eurydice), "Wait For Me" (Hermes and Orpheus), "How Long" (Persephone and Hades), "Doubt Comes In" (Orpheus and Eurydice), and "I Raise My Cup To Him" (Persephone and Eurydice).
  • Love at First Sight: "Epic (Part Two)": Hades fell in love with Persephone the moment he saw her in Demeter's garden.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "When The Chips Are Down" is a fatalistic but very jaunty and catchy song.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Hades, who never commits direct violence against Eurydice but instead lures her to Hadestown and away from her husband through seduction and preying on her fear of having to provide for both herself and Orpheus. Even when he's persuaded to give Orpheus and Eurydice a chance to be together again, he manages to come up with a deal that seems fair and which Orpheus will agree to but still ends with Hades getting exactly what he wants.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Way Down Hadestown," through and through.
  • Melismatic Vocals: Anais Mitchell as Eurydice, particularly in "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)."
  • Minimalist Cast: There's Eurydice, Orpheus, Persephone, Hades, Hermes, and the Fates.
  • Mr. Exposition: Hermes's main function.
  • Not So Different:
    • In a heroic example, Orpheus to Hades in "Epic (Part Two)". It's in an attempt to persuade Hades to let Orpheus bring Eurydice back to the surface by comparing the two of them to Hades and Persephone. Hades is actually moved enough by it to let him try, though not without one condition.
    • Hades, about Orpheus, from "His Kiss, The Riot," though he is recognizing the similarity to Orpheus in himself rather than persuading Orpheus of their similarities.
    Hades: Nothing makes a man so bold/As a woman's smile and a hand to hold/But all alone his blood runs thin/And doubt comes— [Hesitant Dramatic Pause] doubt comes in.
  • One-Word Title: "Hadestown".
  • Orphean Rescue: The story is based on the myth of Orpheus, though in this case Eurydice isn't literally dead but instead trapped in an underground city as a worker.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Justin Vernon as Orpheus (see Voice of the Legion).
  • Shame If Something Happened: "Hey Little Songbird"
    Hades: Always a pity for one so pretty and young/When poverty comes to clip your wings/And knock the wind right out of your lungs/Hey, nobody sings on empty.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Persephone.
  • The Song Before the Storm: "His Kiss, The Riot".
  • Soprano and Gravel: Eurydice and Hades in "Hey Little Songbird."
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Orpheus and Eurydice end as this. Orpheus cannot return to Hadestown to see her and Eurydice cannot go to him on the surface because Orpheus broke the condition that Hades gave when he let the two of them go.
  • Sympathy for the Devil:
    • Persephone in "How Long," about both Orpheus (who just wants to see his lover Eurydice again) and Hades (who is tormented by their failed marriage as much as she is).
    • Orpheus to Hades in "Epic III", realizing that despite all his wealth and power, the thing Hades most wants and tries so hard for is what he's already lost: his relationship with Persephone.
  • Tenor Boy: Orpheus.
  • Villain Love Song: "Hey Little Songbird," in which Hades seduces Eurydice.
  • Villainous Lament: "How Long," in which a surprisingly vulnerable Hades shows bitter regret not for his villainous deeds, but for the dysfunctional nature of his marriage. What's tragic is that both Hades and Persephone seem to truly love each other even as that damaged love pains and tortures them.
  • Voice of the Legion: Orpheus, to indicate his divine musical talent.
  • Wedding Day: "Wedding Song," natch.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In "Hey Little Songbird," Hades tempts Eurydice into leaving the man she loves in favor of a safe, comfortable life. She agrees, and eventually comes to regret it. The Fates converse about it in "When The Chips Are Down", asserting that Eurydice shouldn't be judged for her choice since most people would've done the same if they'd been in her position.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Eurydice and Orpheus both have elements of this at the start. "Epic, Part Two" and "How Long?" imply that Persephone used to be this, too.
  • Women Are Wiser: Eurydice in "Wedding Song," voicing her concerns for Orpheus's monetary situation, and in "Chant", when she's the one who cares about their dwindling stores of food and firewood. Subverted thereafter, as Eurydice's concerns and her overall innocence lead to her seduction and subsequent imprisonment by Hades.
  • Wretched Hive: Hadestown.
    Hermes: Either get to hell or to Hadestown/Ain't no difference any more!
  • Your Cheating Heart: Hades and Eurydice sleep together after he brings her to Hadestown. He's picked up multiple women this way before and then dropped them cold, according to the chorus.