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

The music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is being featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/18  3:00 p.m.) through two of his well-known and much loved pieces.  The program begins with the psychological drama “Pique Dame” (“The Queen of Spades”) and a recording from 1991.  Herman has two problems: he’s in love with Liza who is far above his station in life, and he is obsessed with gambling.  He learns that Liza’s grandmother is a countess who is known as The Queen of Spades because she knows a formula that always allows her to win.  

This week’s Dress Circle (2/18  7:00 p.m.) will be a survey of some of the CDs of a group formed in 1995 called “The Broadway Kids.”  This rotating cast of young people between the ages of eight and sixteen, had to appear in at least one Broadway or off-Broadway show or a major national tour in order to audition, and we’ll be looking at three of their eight CDs including The Broadway Kids “Sing Broadway,” “Back on Broadway,” and “Sing America.”  

Two works by Umberto Giordano will be featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/11  3:00 p.m.).  Giordano was on the forefront of the verismo (realism) movement in the world of opera, and we’ll be sampling two of those on this program.  The first is one of his best-known works, “Fedora,” a tragic story of doomed love due to actions taken too quickly and without thought.   Our recording from 1986 features as Eva Marton as Fedora, and her Loris is Jose Carreras.

Valentine’s Day is creeping up, and The Dress Circle will be all about love this week (2/11  7:00 p.m.) with songs that ask some musical questions from some rather unfamiliar shows.  We’ll begin with a few “love” songs with titles that just were just too good to resist like “Kiss Me and Kill Me with Love” from “Ankles Aweigh” and “I Love You Like a Table” from “Waitress,” but the bulk of the show will be a series of songs that ask a variety of questions about love like “Must It Be Love?” from “Bajour,” “Why Did You Make Me Love You?” from “Radio Gals,” and “Where Is Love?” 

Richard Wagner’s second opera, “Das Liebesverbot,” is the centerpiece of this week’s Sunday Opera (2/4  3:00 p.m.).   Premiering in 1836, “Das Liebesverbot” or “The Ban on Love,” is based on Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” with a libretto by Wagner and has been called “Wagner’s lost comedy” since its premier was a disaster with the leading man forgetting his part and improvising through the performance.  This performance, recorded in 1983, features Hermann Prey, Wolfgang Fassler, and Sabine Haas.  

The Dress Circle begins the month of February (2/4  7:00 p.m.) with its monthly feature to showcase some of the shows that have opened this month.  The menu of productions spans some 72 years with the earliest being Irving Berlin’s long forgotten musical “Face the Music” from 1932.  Along the way, we’ll also be looking at a musical was based on some of the stories of Chaucer from “The Canterbury Tales” starring Hermione Baddeley.  

An American opera based on an American original is this week’s Sunday Opera (1/28  3:00 p.m.) as we take a look at Lori Laitman’s 2016 treatment of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”  Hawthorne’s 1850 novel is a moral allegory centering on Hester Prynne’s affair with the Reverend Dimmesdale, the birth of her illegitimate daughter, Pearl, and her strength and determination to make a life for them in the face of hatred and prejudice.  Laura Claycomb is Hester and Dominic Armstrong is Dimmesdale in this recording featuring the Opera Colorado Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Ari Pelto

Just for fun, this week’s Dress Circle (1/28  7:00 p.m.) will be celebrating “Backward’s Day” a few days early.  Every January 31st, Backwards Day gives people the chance to reverse their ways, to go back to a simpler way of life, just to have a wonderful time eating dinner for breakfast, wearing their clothes backwards, talking backwards, or even just saying goodbye when they meet someone. 

Gordon Getty is the featured composer on this week’s Sunday Opera (1/21  3:00 p.m.) in two of his works.  We’ll begin with “Plump Jack,” an adaptation by the composer of “Henry IV” Parts 1 & 2 and “Henry V” of Shakespeare featuring Lester Lynch as Falstaff as he falls from favor with Prince Hal on the death of the prince’s father.  The second opera is based on Oscar Wilde’s first published story, “The Canterville Ghost” about an American family who move into a haunted castle only to drive the poor ghost to despair.  

Join the Dress Circle for a trip to London on this week’s program (1/21  7:00 p.m.)  as we look at five musicals that have been mounted by the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Of course, we’ll include music from the world-wide sensation “Les Miserables.” 

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