Mike Harrah

Program Host

Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.

Mike doesn't know if he saw The Great Caruso 14 times when he was 13 or 13 times when he was 14, but hearing Mario Lanza and all of the other great singers in that movie jump-started an already nascent love of opera. This later led him to study voice and was followed by several seasons singing in the New York City Opera Chorus during the great Beverly Sills/Norman Treigle era in the late 60's and early 70's. He also appeared in regional opera performances in small roles and in the chorus on the same stage as Robert Merrill, James McCracken, Blanche Thebom, Roberta Peters and Placido Domingo – who sang the big roles. To have done this still dazzles him with a "is it really true?" feeling. Chance and fate were smiling.

Mike has thirty years of radio experience include several years of full-time hosting evening and afternoon classical music shows at the public radio station in Toledo, Ohio, and many years here at WWFM on a part-time basis and now hosting The Lyric Stage.

Along the way he has acted in stock, small regional theaters, television industrials and commercials, and made appearances on various network shows.  In a parallel life he has taught writing in Ohio and at Temple and Drexel Universities in Philadelphia. He published a young adult novel in the 1980's that HBO turned into a one-hour film. 

His favorite non-operatic musical works include lots of Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Mahler's Third Symphony. He still loves to hear Mario Lanza sing. His gift of song and his sound make him forget about any flaws in phrasing and technique.

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Baritone William Warfield (1920-2002) combined a wonderful voice and the gift of song with a great range of style. This week he sings a variety of songs and arias showing that range, including an aria from Handel's Messiah, songs by Robert Schumann,  Jerome Kern's Ol' Man River, and the complete set of Copland's Old American Songs.

This week on the Lyric Stage (9/17) , excerpts from Luisa Miller, one of the last operas of Giuseppe Verdi's early period, a time of development that led to his breakthrough with the threesome of Rigoletto, Traviata and Trovatore shortly after the premiere of Luisa Miller.

This week we have selections from Giordano's Madame Sans-Gens. In 1999, near the end of her active singing career, Mirella Freni recorded this live performance of  Giordano's version of Victorien Sardou's comedy drama. In 1792 the very lovable Caterina, Madame Sans-Gens - Madame Carefree - is a Parisian laundress  who is happy, carefree, engaged to be married, completely at ease.  One of her customers is a young officer named Napoleon Bonaparte.

This week on The Lyric Stage, selections from Ferdinando Paer's 1805 opera, Sofonisba, about an early third century Princess of Carthage trapped in a life or death situation between her country and the Roman empire. Jennifer Larmore heads the cast.

Paer was a noted composer in his day, and a special favorite of Napoleon. He composed in many genres, and his is works contain elements of both classical and romantic styles, making him a transitional figure in Opera's history.

Rachmaninov's Francesca da Rimini is one of at least a dozen plays and as many operas  based on Dante's brief episode about Francesca da Rimini and the subsequent enhancements to the story, though only Ricardo Zandonai's version from 1914 has held stage to any extent. While Rachmaninov's music is superb, his version has been called a symphonic tone poem with voices, better heard than seen, because the libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky is not very good. The opera premiered in 1906, two years before the composer's Second Symphony. Gianandrea Noseda conducts an all Russian cast.

In 2014, Opera Lafayette in Washington,  D. C. used Francois Philidor's Les Femmes Vengees as the third act to a shortened French version of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte. Using the same cast and set as Cosi on the same night, Opera Lafayette placed Philidor's piece ten years later. The stories are very similar. They share interwoven themes of love and infidelity, temptation and flirtation, the one (“Così fan Tutte”) during courtship, and the other (“Les Femmes Vengées”) after the first bloom of marriage has faded.

You are in love with one who does not return your love, so to prove how much you love her, you serve her your beloved pet cat for dinner  because there is nothing else in the house. She is impressed by the gesture, and agrees to marry you. Basically that is the story of La Colombe, Charles Gounod's one act comic opera he wrote only a year after setting Faust to music with its triumph of God over Mephistopheles, and its cosmic backdrop. Horace does not serve Sylvie a cat, but he does have an adored dove he tells Sophie he has sacrificed for her dinner.

The Lyric Stage presents Andre Gretry's one act L'epreuve Villageoise this week at 8 pm. This work is an example of what Gretry did best, which was write comic operas. It's a comedy of young love, old love, and jealousy that of course ends happily. Gretry lived from 1741 until 1813 during a time of tumult in France - a long period of tensions leading to revolution and finally dictatorship. 

The Lyric Stage presents Prokofiev's early student opera Maddelena, which wasn't produced until the 1980s because of the complexities of its singing roles. Tune in for an early glimpse at one of the 20th centuries great composers.

Giuseppe di Stefano was called the bad boy of opera for choosing an exuberant life style over of a complete dedication to his art. But many still say he was one of the great tenors of the twentieth century and his early recordings show us why.

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