Katy Giorgio, president for Orpheus Project and producer for the upcoming “Princess Sophia” opera, speaks in front of a slide of Vanderbilt Reef, where the Princess Sophia sunk in 1918. The opera, which opens on the 100th anniversary of the wreck that claimed at least 350 lives, was the subject of an Evening at Egan lecture series talk. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Katy Giorgio, president for Orpheus Project and producer for the upcoming “Princess Sophia” opera, speaks in front of a slide of Vanderbilt Reef, where the Princess Sophia sunk in 1918. The opera, which opens on the 100th anniversary of the wreck that claimed at least 350 lives, was the subject of an Evening at Egan lecture series talk. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

5 takeways from Princess Sophia opera Evening at Egan

Upcoming show was subject of lecture series talk

The 100th anniversary of the Princess Sophia disaster is approaching, and the ship and the more than 350 on board who perished are on people’s minds.

Katy Giorgio wants to keep it that way.

“It’s like my life’s mission now to keep the memory of the Princess Sophia alive,” said Giorgio, president for the Orpheus Project, and producer of the upcoming “The Princess Sophia” opera.

Giorgio spoke Friday at University of Alaska Southeast for the Evening at Egan lecture series, and shared details about the opera, which opens on the 100th anniversary of the Sophia’s sinking — Thursday, Oct. 25.

She told the story of the Princess Sophia, which crashed into Vanderbilt Reef on Oct. 24, 1918.

At first, the ship did not take on water, so passengers stayed on board the ship because of rough waters.

Already bad weather turned worse, and ultimately the evening of Oct. 25, the Princess Sophia sunk, and at least 350 perished.

Giorgio said the tragic news was forgotten relatively quickly because of a combination of the end of World War I, the World’s Fair and Spanish Influenza.

After covering the broad strokes of the disaster, Giorgio discussed the upcoming two-act opera it inspired.

These are five takeaways from her almost hour-long talk.

1. It was commissioned, but features a lot of local talent

William Todd Hunt, artistic director for Orpheus Project, briefly considered writing the opera, Giorgio said, but ultimately the decision was made to commission an opera for the anniversary of the disaster.

Librettist Dave Hunsaker and composer Emerson Eads were contacted about the project and both “jumped at the chance” to work on the opera, Giorgio said.

However, many locals will be present on the stage and in the look of the opera.

Juneau artist Dan Fruits’ paintings will be used as backdrops thanks to high-powered projectors that will travel by plane from Seattle.

2. It’s coming to students

“The Princess Sophia” will run for three days in late October — 8 p.m. Oct. 25 and Oct. 27 and 2 p.m. Oct. 28.

But Giorgio said there will be a special opportunities for some students to see the show thanks to the Juneau Lyric Opera.

“A lot of the kids haven’t been exposed to opera before,” Giorgio said.

3. Yes, there will be a dog

Supposedly, the only survivor of the Princess Sophia’s sinking was an oil-covered dog found in Tee Harbor.

“Whether or not that actually happened, I don’t know,” Giorgio said. “I like to believe in the dog.”

Giorgio said she’s often asked whether the dog will be featured in the opera, and she confirmed it will be.

The dog will be stage prop controlled by people on stage.

“We don’t want to be upstaged by a dog,” Giorgio said and laughed.

4.The opera is part of a larger effort

The opera isn’t a one-off memorial.

There is both a Sophia committee and a calendar of commemorative events.

While many of the planned commemorations have passed, there are a few more to come, Giorgio said.

Oct. 25 there will be a graveside memorial service at noon in Evergreen Cemetery and a 5 p.m. remembrance ceremony at the State Library, Archives and Museum.

On Oct. 26, the Juneau Yacht Club will host a Last Sailing dinner.

5. They need help

While the opera’s opening is in less than a month, Giorgio said organizers are still looking for help.

This includes volunteers for housing artists, lending transport, manning the box office and ushering.

The Orpheus Project can be contacted at info@orpheusproject.org or by visiting http://orpheusproject.org/contact/ .

Know & Go

What: “The Princess Sophia

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 25, 8 p.m. Oct. 27, and 2 p.m. Oct. 28.

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School Auditorium, 1639 Glacier Ave.

Admission: $20-$45. They’re available at Juneau Arts & Culture Center, Hearthside Books and online.


•Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @capweekly.


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