Michael Kownacky

Program Host

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.

You can also hear Michael, along with his The Dress Circle co-host, on JazzOn2, every Wednesday evening from 7pm, eastern, for Strike Up the Band, a program celebrating the big bands and dance bands of jazz.

Ways to Connect

Maurizio Muraro stars in the title role of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” from San Francisco on this week’s Sunday Opera (10/15   3:00 p.m.).  “Pasquale,” the 73rd of Donizetti’s 75 operas, deals with a foolish, old man who is tricked into allowing his nephew Ernesto to marry the girl he loves, Norina, with the help of the wily Dr. Malatesta.  Joining Muraro, in this September 2016 performnance , you’ll hear Heidi Stober as the spirited Norina, Lawrence Brownlee as the confused Ernesto, and Lucas Meachem as the happily scheming Dr.

With the way things are going in the world, one could easily wish for the old days when things were thought to be better even when they really weren’t.  We thought we’d take a look at how Broadway musicals remembered the “Good Old Days” with songs from a variety of musicals like the wistful memory of “Try to Remember” from “The Fantasticks” and “Lilacs Bring Back Memories” from “Nunsense.”  From “Damn Yankees” we’ll hear a happy memory of a troubled times in “Those Were the Good Old Days” and a flood of warm memories in “The Happy Time.”  There will also be a sampling of songs about relatio

The world premiere production of Chinese American composer Bright Sheng’s “Dream of the Red Chamber” is this week’s Sunday Opera.  (10/8  3:00 p.m.)  The task of adapting this mid-18th century novel which consists of 120 chapters and nearly 600 named characters fell to Tony Award Winning playwright David Henry Hwang who focused on the tale of one of the “twelve beauties” of the story Dai-yu and her tragic love for Bao Yu.  It’s a story of love, treachery, and loss.  The primarily Asian cast features Pureum Jo as the doomed Dai-yu and Yijie Shi as Bao Yu.

One of our favorite singers will be featured on this week’s Dress Circle (10/8  7:00 p.m.) as we look at the legendary Ella Fitzgerald through her incredible series of recordings that are catalogued under the “Songbook” Title.  Fitzgerald, who began singing by chance in 1934 when her name was drawn at random to be a contestant in an amateur contest at the Apollo Theatre, wowed the audience with her rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy” at the spur of the moment.  She had intended to dance but changed her mind at the last minute.  She would go on to be known as the “First Lady of Song” for

Umberto Giordano is our composer for two tales of doomed love on this week’s Sunday Opera (10/1   3:00 p.m.).  We continue with our season from the San Francisco Opera and their recent production of “Andrea Chenier.”  The poet Chenier (Yonghoon Lee) is falsely accused by the servant Gerard (George Gagnidze) and sentenced to death during the French Revolution.

The first Dress Circle program of October (10/1   7:00 p.m.) will be the traditional monthly feature that looks at some of the shows that opened this month.  This time we’ll be including some recent works like “Big Fish” and “The Last Ship” as well as looking back at favorites like “Cabin in the Sky,” “Mack and Mabel,” and “The Boy from Oz” with performances by Julie Andrews, Hugh Jackman, Norbert Leo Butz, Bernadette Peters, and more.  The varied menu will also include “High Button Shoes,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Wicked,” and “Porgy and Bess.”   Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and that

Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” with Lianna Haroutounian in the title role is this week’s Sunday Opera (9/24 3:00 p.m.) from the San Francisco Opera.  The libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa was based on a play by David Bilasco which in turn was based on a short story by John Luther Long.  That short story’s basis was in stories told to Long by his sister along with the French novel “Madame Chrysantheme” by Pierre Loti.  The two-act version that premiered at La Scala on February 17, 1904 was poorly received, but Puccini re-wrote it into a three-act opera and included the now-famous h

To many people, the name Johnny Burke is unknown, and we’ll be trying to remedy that on this week’s Dress Circle (9/24 7:00 p.m.) when we air a Johnny Burke Songbook.  We guarantee you’ll know many of the songs penned by this gifted lyricist who also wrote music when the occasion arose, and we’ll sample some of those songs from his Broadway musical “Donnybrook!” based on “The Quiet Man,” as well as some of his film work for the “Road” films of Hope and Crosby, “Rio,” “Morocco,” and “Utopia.”  Please join us every Sunday evening or as a webcast on The Classical Network’s website.  You can a

Performances from the San Francisco Opera continue on this weeks’ Sunday Opera (9/17 3 p.m.) with another tale of doomed love in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.”   Leah Crocetto sings the title role, Brian Jagde is her Radames, and Ekaterina Semenchuk is the spurned Amneris.  They’re joined by George Gagnidze as Amonasro, Raymond Aceto as Ramfis, and Anthony Reed as the King of Egypt.  Nicola Luisotti conducts.  Stay tuned after the opera for some interesting Verdi including the sinfonia for “Aida” that was written, but never used, for the opera’s European premier in 1887 as well as another rarity,

This week’s Dress Circle (9/17  7 p.m.) is taking a second look at some of our “new to us” recent acquisitions before they enter our permanent catalogue to be used in upcoming programs.  We’re including a few cast recordings including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the failed 2015 revival of “Gigi” which starred Vanessa Hudgens, and the current London cast of “Dreamgirls” starring Amber Riley.  Composer Charles Strouse will perform a few of his own works from the CD "Charles Strouse Sings," and we'll also showcase Kristin Chenoweth in performance from her televised special "Coming Home."

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