Orpheus, we hear you

An upcoming concert that explores the myth of Orpheus has prompted our media production manager, Chip Van Dyke, to think about both music performances and various sound installations that have taken place over the years at PEM. He’s also been exploring the importance of experiencing sound in a particular place. We share our  conversation, which takes us all around the museum and to France and back, in this first 23-minute PEMcast.

Soon, this rising star in the opera world will play Orpheus at PEM. Anthony Roth Costanzo will join our Composer-in-Residence Matthew Aucoin for the third in this concert series of young rising talent. These performances take place June 6 and 7 when Aucoin will conduct Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) and his own piece, The Orphic Moment.


Anthony Roth Costanzo. Photo by Matthu Placek

aucoin-conducts_social p

Matthew Aucoin directing his Encounters Ensemble at PEM. Photo by Social Palates.

Matt Aucoin’s visit and the upcoming focus on the myth of Orpheus prompted several of us to review our mythology and to check out paintings and films depicting the myth looking to cult classic films like The Testament of Orpheus.


Jean Cocteau’s The Testament of Orpheus

A clip from the 1960 film The Testament of Orpheus, directed by and starring Jean Cocteau. In this scene, Orphée, a Left Bank poet, gets impaled.

The film shown at Carrières de Lumières, in the town of Les Baux de Provence, 30 kilometers south of Avignon. According to the cultural site’s website: “The Carrières were given a new life thanks to the visionary genius of Jean Cocteau in the 1960s. He was enchanted by the beauty of the place and its surroundings, and decided to film The Testament of Orpheus here in 1959.”  Today there is a Cocteau Room at the site.

film at Carrieres

Photo by Chip Van Dyke

walls at carrieres

Photo by Chip Van Dyke


Projected works of art onto the quarry walls. Photo by Chip Van Dyke

This video teases a recent installation at Carrières de Lumières.

During this Matthew Aucoin concert in June, historic ship figureheads will rise above the ensemble in East India Marine Hall and some of the museum’s first collected pieces will encircle the audience. The haunting voice of Susan Philipsz filled East India Marine Hall during the 2011 run of her sound installation If I with you would go, part of PEM’s Freeport series.

Susan Philips, East India Marine Hall, Peabody Essex Museum, FreePort [No.003]

Photo by Walter Silver/PEM

Forrest James, an American Dream-Wave recording artist, producer and composer based in Salem will play our upcoming evening party series on Thursday, May 15.

forrest james


  1. gail spilsbury says:

    How do people buy advance tickets?

  2. Caryn says:

    Good question, Gail. Tickets can be purchased on the website at http://pem.org/calendar/concerts — just select the performance you want and you’ll see a “Purchase Tickets Now” button in the top right corner. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 978-542-1511.

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