Friday, December 25, 2020

‘Every difficult problem ... is disguising a blessing’


André De Shields in "Hadestown."

     Christmas has pagan roots, in holidays designed to illuminate the darkness of winter and keep the gathering cold at bay with the warmth of love and celebration.
     Which can be tough to manage in the best of times. Our COVID-19 Christmas, with so many people isolated, careers wrecked, bank accounts emptied, is even harder.
     You need a light to guide you.
     On top of everything, 2020 has been almost entirely devoid of live performance: no concerts, no theater. Unless you were lucky enough to catch one at the beginning of the year, and I was. Singer Anaïs Mitchell took the ancient legend of Orpheus and Eurydice and turned it into a thoughtful musical, “Hadestown.” Last February, just before the world shut down, my wife and I met our boys in New York City and we saw it on Broadway.
     In the tale, lovely Eurydice goes down to Hell to live with Hades, king of the underworld, and her lover Orpheus tries to bring her back, with a helping hand from Persephone, Hades’ wife. Her absence brings the winter; her return, the spring.
     The star of the show is veteran Broadway actor André De Shields, and he has one line that kept returning to my mind as the days grew shorter, colder and grimmer.
     “The world ... came back ... to life!”

To continue reading, click here.


  1. Thank you for the marvelous Christmas gift. Wisdom is the greatest gift.

  2. Great column. Never really see a blessing during the journey, maybe years later when we look back.

  3. The bleak midwinter of Ms. Rossetti's poem (and the derived carol) is bleaker because of the plague, but "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" Although we are denied live performance of consoling art, technology affords simulacra. Have been listening to the Kings College Cambridge Choir on WFMT singing the choral from "L'Enfance du Christ" -- a perfect melody and a message that almost restores my belief in a future.


  4. Thank you Neil and thanks to mr De Sheilds for his insight and wisdom. That's the second great thing I read today. The other was Hilton Als's memoir from the New Yorker MY MOTHERS DREAMS FOR HER SON from June 2020. Check it out


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.