The Hadestown Story: The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
There are stories that are timeless. The story of Orpheus and Eurydice began as a Greek myth thousands of years ago and has been reinvented all along the way until it reached the Broadway stage. The classic myth follows Orpheus, son of a muse, who had an spectacular talent at singing and playing the lyre, so talented as to be recognized by the gods. One day, he falls madly in love with Eurydice, who reciprocates his feelings (Britannica, 2022). However, shortly after marrying Orpheus, Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies. In despair at losing his beloved, Orpheus descends to the underworld and confronts Hades, god of the dead, singing a song so beautiful that Hades allows Eurydice to return to the world of the living. But there is one condition: Eurydice must follow behind Orpheus, who cannot turn back until he reaches the world of the living. There are different interpretations of what happens next - some believe that Orpheus did not trust Hades, others that he doubted Eurydice's love - but the result is the same: Orpheus turns back and loses his beloved back to death.
Hadestown has reimagined this myth in a new context: we are no longer in ancient Greece, but in a post-apocalyptic, industrial world - inspired by New Orleans - plunged into a winter that seems eternal. In this version, the idealistic love of Orpheus and Eurydice parallels the destructive relationship of Hades and Persephone, the rulers of the underworld. Orpheus, as idealistic now as in his mythical version, seeks to make a song for spring to return, which causes Eurydice to fall in love with him and they marry. However, winter brings hunger and suffering and, while Orpheus is in search of inspiration for his song, Hades tricks Eurydice into going down into the underworld, promising her a safe and warm place. Orpheus thus embarks on an adventure to save her.
This reimagined version of the myth did not arrive directly at Broadway Anaïs Mitchell first created a musical with few songs, ambiguous and visual, staging shows around Vermont, with a jazzy style that captivated audiences with the help of donations. After the initial success, Anais decided in 2010 to make an album of this show and toured with it. In 2012, Anais moved to New York and sought bigger opportunities for Hadestownending up with a new adaptation of the story that has toured English West End theaters and made it all the way to Broadway. Currently Hadestown is the winner of 8 Tonys, including Best Musical, and is touring around the United States.
More and more adaptations of Hadestown are appearing around the world. The love story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been reimagined for reflection in a modern-day context, while bringing with it idealism, romanticism and classical tragedy (Catenaccio, 2019). This August, Hadestown Hadestown comes to Perú in our Musical Theater Staging workshop at Spotlight. Auditions are open until July 24, be part of Hadestown!
- Wers (2022). The Local History of HadesTown. https://wers.org/the-local-story-of-hadestown/
- Catenaccio, C. (2019). “Why We Build the Wall”: Hadestown in Trump’s America. https://classicalstudies.org/annual-meeting/150/abstract/why-we-build-wall-hadestown-trumps-america#:~:text=Hadestown%20was%20initially%20developed%20by,Greg%20Brown%2C%20and%20Ani%20DiFranco.
- Britannica. Orpheus. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Orpheus-Greek-mythology