Greetings from cold and snowy Juneau, Alaska! Orpheus Project (formerly known as Opera to Go) has been delivering meaningful musical performances to Alaskan audiences for over 20 years. We have always valued collaborations and outreach as fundamental components of our productions. Several years ago, Nancy DeCherney of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, alerted the local arts community to an important upcoming milestone: the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Princess Sophia. The 1918 shipwreck in Juneau waters claimed 350 lives, and it is the deadliest marine disaster to date on the Pacific coast of North America. Our artistic director, William Todd Hunt, realized the amazing opportunity this anniversary provided to Orpheus Project: the chance to meld Juneau’s rich history with modern performing arts.
SS Princess Sophia c.1912
We have commissioned a brand new, full scale opera based on the sinking of the SS Princess Sophia to coincide with the 100th anniversary in October 2018!
The opera is well underway! We are excited to have engaged the following creative team:
Dave Hunsaker, Librettist.
Mr. Hunsaker is an active writer and globetrotter whose home near Echo Cove in Juneau looks over the waters of Lynn Canal- very close to Vanderbilt Reef where the Sophia still rests. Dave is no stranger to the Sophia story and brings considerable knowledge and passion to the storytelling of the Sophia tragedy.
Emerson Eads, Composer.
We are thrilled to have Alaska grown, Emerson Eads, hard at work on the music composition of the Sophia opera! Eads is a former student of John Luther Adams and has previously been commissioned to compose choral and operatic works. Emerson is currently a choral conducting doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame studying with Professor Carmen- Helena Téllez. He is a University of Alaska Fairbanks alumni.
William Todd Hunt, Artistic Director & Conductor.
Maestro William Todd Hunt can be credited with the original creative idea to commission an opera based on the Princess Sophia. Hunt is an active conductor in Juneau and beyond, appearing with Juneau Lyric Opera, Taku Winds, Amalga Chamber Orchestra, the Juneau Symphony, and Anchorage Opera, Mr. Hunt’s recent Orpheus Project productions include Bernstein’s West Side Story (2017), Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (2016), Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen (2015) and the world premiere of Rory Stitt’s Bennu (2014).
Dan Fruits and Jim Simard, Production Design.
We are excited to announce that Juneau’s own Dan Fruits and Jim Simard will be producing the visual elements of the Sophia opera. They both will bring a lifetime of experience and historical knowledge to the visual look and feel of the Sophia production.
Katy Giorgio, Producer.
You usually can spot Ms. Giorgio playing trombone in various ensembles around Juneau, including the Juneau Symphony, Taku Winds, Amalga Chamber Orchestra, or playing jazz, motown or polka is her various bands. For the Sophia project, however, she is hanging up her trombone for a clipboard and headset to help produce this important new operatic work.
Stayed tuned for much more information on our project! In the coming months, we will be spotlighting different aspects of the opera commission including biographies on the Sophia passengers and other historical figures, historical context of the ship’s sinking, artist profiles and other information related to the event.
For inquiries into our project, please contact us at [email protected].