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

Among the many definitions of a “moment,” the first is “a minute portion or point of time: instant,” and on this week’s Dress Circle (5/20 7:00 p.m.), we’ll be looking at a series of “Moment Moments.”  We were surprised by how important moments are in musicals, and we had many shows from which to choose songs.

We’ll be transported to the Yorkshire Moors for this week’s Sunday Opera (5/13  3:00 p.m.) through Bernard Hermann’s 1951 treatment of Emily Bronte’s brooding novel “Wuthering Heights.”  The opera was begun in 1943 while Hermann was writing the film score for the adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” but it would never be produced during his life time.  Focusing on the first half of Bronte’s novel, “Wuthering Heights” looks at the tragic love of the headstrong Cathy and the tormented Heathcliff played out against the beautifully bleak moorland.  

Listeners are in store for an hour of wonderful singing on this week’s “Dress Circle”  (5/13  7:00 p.m.) when Dinah Shore is featured singing songs from Broadway and Hollywood including songs from her film outing with Alan Jones and Robert Merrill entitled “Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick." 

A forgotten opera by the proclaimed father of Polish opera, Stanislaw Moniuszko, is this week’s Sunday Opera (5/6 3:00 p.m.).  Although “The Haunted Manor” (“Straszny Dwor”) is a romantic comedy, it’s considered to be one of the finest examples of patriotic Polish themed music.  The story centers around two brothers who try to avoid the marriage machinations of their aunt, only to find the women they love and want to marry in a purportedly haunted house.  

There may be May flowers and all that, but this week’s Dress Circle (5/6 7:00 p.m.) has very little to do with them because we’re focusing on the shows that opened in or on their way to New York.   Our list includes “The Baker’s Wife,” a Stephen Schwartz show that closed on its way to Broadway, the legendary “Fantasticks,” and “The Most Happy Fella,” Frank Loesser’s monumental romantic musical.  We’re also including “Passion,” Stephen Sondheim’s chamber opera about a different kind of love, and Lena Horne’s one-woman show that wowed audiences for over 300 performances.   

Two sides of Sergei Prokofiev will be featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (4/29 3:00 p.m.) in the form of his dramatic tragedy “The Fiery Angel” and his much loved comedy “The Love for Three Oranges.”  In a dramatic score that is said to be a perfect embodiment of Prokofiev’s brooding and dark sarcasm, “The Fiery Angel” follows Renata, a devout woman, as she searches for her missing love, an angel with whom she has been in love since she was a child. 

A fringe benefit of the CD era is the theme for this week’s Dress Circle (4/29 7:00 p.m.).  The standard LP could hold about 44 minutes of music, so when CDs arrived that could hold 80 minutes, record labels were in a quandary:  Should they just ignore the remaining time or try to fill it with something?   We’re very happy that they filled it with something that those of us who love musicals are thrilled to have:  Bonus tracks – alternate takes, cut songs, songs left off of the LP because of time constraints, demo recordings, and interviews with stars and creators.  

Ricky Ian Gordon’s treatment of John Steinbeck’s heartbreaking 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath” is this week’s Sunday Opera (4/22  3:00 p.m.).  This world premier recording features Brian Leerhuber as the desperate Tom Joad leading his extended family away from the horrors of the dustbowl only to find that California holds no promise for them at the end of their journey.  The cast also includes Roger Honeywell as Jim Casey, Kella Kaduce as Rosasharn, Andrew Wilkowske as Tom’s hapless brother Noah, Robert Orth as Uncle John, and Deanne Meek and Peter Halverson as Ma and Pa Joad.

With all of the negative news flying about, most of us need a “happy place” to which we can escape to hide from the madness.  This week’s Dress Circle (4/22  7:00 p.m.) will offer up some happy places that are found in a variety of musicals.   Join us as we head to “Never Never Land” with Peter Pan, “My Own Little Corner” with Cinderella, and “Loveland” from “Follies.”   

Two words that are dear to the hearts of many people are Walt Disney, and on this week’s Dress Circle (4/15  7:00 p.m.) we’ll hear some of the music associated with Disney films but not by the originators in a show called Everybody Does Disney.  For instance, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” we’ll hear “Heigh-Ho,” but it will be performed by The Shanghai Quartet.  “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from “Cinderella” gets an “Andrews Sisters” treatment by Michelle Nicastro.  Louis Armstrong will stop by to perform “The Bear Necessities” from “The Jungle Book.  

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