courtesy of the artist
Anais Mitchell's folk opera Hadestown enlists the services of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon as Orpheus.
Anais Mitchell's folk opera Hadestown enlists the services of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon as Orpheus. courtesy of the artist
- Artist: Anais Mitchell with Justin Vernon
- Song: "If It's True"
- CD: Hadestown
- Genre: Folk
At least on paper, Anais Mitchell's folk opera Hadestown is pretty forbidding: It tells the story of the musically inclined Greek hero Orpheus, who travels through the underworld to reclaim his lost love, Eurydice. But Mitchell, a singer-songwriter who adapted the ancient story with Michael Chorney and Ben Matchstick, knows how to make her source material relatable and contemporary, whether she's expressing universal emotions or choosing a stable of relevant collaborators. The deep-voiced folksinger Greg Brown takes a comically menacing turn as Hades, for example, while Ani DiFranco, The Low Anthem's Ben Knox Miller and others make high-profile appearances.
Singing in a deep voice of his own — a change of pace from the falsetto he employs as leader of Bon Iver — Justin Vernon plays Hadestown's legendary protagonist, whose tone of resignation, denial and doubt reflects a complicated swirl of emotions in "If It's True." Oozing self-pity amid sweeping strings, Vernon/Orpheus dramatically mourns a loss of which he's just heard. But he soon finds himself doubting the messengers: "The ones who tell the lies are the solemnest to swear / and the ones who load the dice always say the toss is fair." His is a grim view of humanity, but at least it's in the service of a twisted sort of hope: Vernon's best-case scenario is that he's been duped by cruel, vicious liars.
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