ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE. Despite those ominous words inscribed above the entrance to Hell, Dante trusts his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, and proceeds with his journey into the Inferno. Similarly, Vermont poet and songwriter Ana_Mitchell is our reliable guide to Hadestown, another hopeless and hellish place. Hadestown, Mitchells folk opera performed at various local venues in late November and early December, presents the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a contemporary context. Orchestrated by Michael Chomey and directed by Ben T. Matchstick, the opera is set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic world where frenzied people move like weather patterns/ Looking for shelter, looking for warmth. Hadestown is the only city walled off from the global havoc. Its desperate, hard-working residents line up for a pay-for-view peek at the sky and the stars through a crack in the wall. The town is ruled by Mister Hades (David Symons), a mean old boss who convinces the cold, hungry, vulnerable Eurydice (Mitchell) to leave her beloved Orpheus (Ben Campbell) to fly south for the winter. Orpheus is, of course, devastated. Despite the apparent futility of his quest (She signed in blood/ She signed for good), he ventures into Hadestown, armed only with his music, to bring Eurydice back. Against all odds, he almost succeeds. Hadess wife, Persephone (Miriam Bernardo), is moved by Orpheuss sorrowful singing, and Hades, fearful that the jack of hearts Orpheus will have all his subjects clamoring for freedom, agrees to free Eurydice: Have I made myself their lord/ Just to fall upon the sword/ Of some paupers minor chord? There is one devious catch: Orpheus cannot turn to see Eurydices face. If he looks back, Eurydice will be gone forever. Uncertainty consumes Orpheus as he travels upward. Is Eurydice still there? Doubt comes in and turns the winekills the lightschills the air. Orpheuss heart falters/And forgets the songs it sang. Orpheus turns. No Eurydice. Despite Orpheuss ultimate failure, Ana_Mitchell believes in art. When I face that faceless world, she says, all I can think is If I could only write a song beautiful enough, maybe I could move someone, maybe I could change things. With great humor, accomplished performances by all the actors, actresses, and musicians, excellent direction, stunning set design, and, yes, beautiful songs, Ana_Mitchells Hadestown underscores the potentially powerful effects of love and art. Want to be moved? One of the Hadestown songs, Hades and Persephone, is on Mitchells February album The Brightness. And you can listen to some of the other songs at www.myspace.com/hadestownopera . With Virgils guidance, Dante survived his descent into Hell. With Ana_Mitchells vision and talent, we ascend from Hadestown with revitalized hope.