Orpheus in New Orleans. Hadestown (2019) im Licht eines amerikanischen Mythos und gegenwärtiger Sozial- und Umweltkatastrophen
Dieser Text wurde mit dem Early Career Best Paper Award 2021 ausgezeichnet
Hadestown is a musical by Anaïs Mitchell, a retelling of Ovid's Orpheus myth where the characters keep their mythological names. It is significant that their detailed characterizations and the worldbuilding of Hadestown separate from earlier adaptations. This article analyzes how Hadestown's worldbuilding establishes a connection with the city of New Orleans which is essential to the show's central themes and musical diversity.
By embedding references to the music and history of the US in ancient Greek mythology, the musical draws attention to various social issues. Hadestown's integration of various musical traditions into its songs emphasizes the city's integral role in the history of jazz and American music. This aesthetical design also highlights the way these traditions are historically intertwined. In this regard, Hadestown counteracts the racialization of American music – a problem present in American societies since the early 20th century (Miller 2010: 187-240).
In addition to musical and lyrical references to African American musical traditions, the evocation of New Orleans as jazz’s mythical place of origin makes it particularly impossible to ignore America's history of racism. In this case, the term ›myth(ical)‹ refers to idealized narratives of the formation of ›New Orleans Jazz‹. Thus, this article investigates how Hadestown's allusions to New Orleans exhibit how the city can be regarded as a microcosm of the social issues of the US to this day, especially in the light of its correlation between race and class.