WWFM Sunday Opera with Michael Kownacky

Sundays at 3 pm

Enjoy world-class productions from the world of opera featuring the great singers past and present performing in the world's great opera houses.

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We’re continuing with productions from England’s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden on this week’s Sunday Opera (7/15 3:00 p.m.) with their production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Macbeth.”  Shakespeare’s tragic tale of unbridled ambition features Zeljko Lucic as Macbeth, Anna Netrebko as the tortured Lady Macbeth, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Banquo, Konu Kim as Malcolm, and Yusif Eyvazov as Macduff with Antonio Pappano leading the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House.  

The Sunday Opera begins a series of productions from the UK this week (7/8  3:00 p.m.) with the world premiere of George Benjamin’s “Lessons of Love and Violence” which debuted at the Royal Opera House in May of this year.  

Join us as we travel to 17th century England this week (7/1 3:00 p.m.) in a production of Vincenzo Bellini’s “I Puritani” from the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Set during the English Civil War in 1640, the story deals with lovers caught in a web of intrigue, the sense of duty, and unrelenting loyalties.  The cast includes Albina Shagimuratova, Lawrence Brownlee, Adrian Sampetrean, and Lauren Decker with Enrique Mazzolla conducting.  

The Sunday Opera continues with the 2018 season from the Lyric Opera of Chicago this week (6/24 3:00 p.m.) with Giacomo Puccini’s adaptation of a 1762 work by Count Carlo Gozzi, “Turandot.”  Originally, this story of a Chinese princess who asks riddles and beheads anyone who seeks her hand was, in turn, based on a 12th century Persian work, one of seven that corresponds with the seven days of the week, colors, and then known planets, was originally about “Turan-Dokht” or the daughter of Turan, a Russian or central Asian princess.  

We’ll travel to Sri Lanka for this week’s Sunday Opera (6/17 3:00 p.m.) and a production of Georges Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” from the Chicago Lyric Opera.  This story of desire, friendship, and sacrifice which includes one of the most famous and beloved tenor/baritone duets, “Au fond du temple saint,” stars Mariusz Kwiecien, Matthew Polenzani, and Andrea Silvestrelli with Sir Andrew Davis conducting.  

The second opera in Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” “Die Walkure,” is this week’s Sunday Opera (6/10 3:00 p.m.) from the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Wotan’s daughters, the Valkyries. are charged with determining who will live or die in battle, and when Wotan’s favorite, Brunnhilde, disobeys him and allows Siegmund to live, she is stripped of her powers, turned mortal, and encircled by a magic flame to remain in an enchanted sleep forever.   

The Lyric opera of Chicago continues their season on this week’s Sunday Opera (6/3 3:00 p.m.) with a tragic tale of callous privilege and contempt in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”  The cast includes Quinn Kelsey in the title role, and he’s joined by Rosa Feola as the infatuated Gilda, Matthew Polenzani as the feckless Duke of Mantua, and Alexander Tsymbalyuk as the treacherous Sparafucile.  Also in the cast are Zanda Svede as Maddalena and Lauren Decker as Giovanna.  Marco Armiliato conducts.  

We’re beginning a new series of performances from The Lyric Opera of Chicago with Gluck’s “Orphee et Eurydice” as this week’s Sunday Opera (5/27 3:00 p.m.)  Dmitry Korchak stars as Orpheus, and his Eurydice is Andriana Chuchman.  They’re joined by Lauren Snouffer as Amour and the Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus and Orchestra.  The performance is conducted by Harry Bicket.  After the opera, we’ll continue with more music of Gluck in his “balleto” “Alessandro” about the ill-fated love of Alexander the Great for Roxane.  

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The Princeton Festival returns to The Classical Network Sunday at 3 pm with a complete performance of Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio. Glenn Smith hosts this broadcast of the Festival's 2017 opera, featuring tenor Noah Baetge in the role of Florestan and soprano Marcy Stonikas as the heroine Leonore.

The jailer Rocco will be performed by bass Gustav Andreassen, his daughter Marzelline is soprano Danielle Talamantes, the villainous Don Pizarro is bass-baritone Joseph Barron, Jacquino is tenor Michael Kuh and Don Fernando is bass-baritone Cameron Jackson.

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.  

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.  

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. 

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.

“La Juive,” a tragic tale of religious intolerance by Fromental Halevy will air on this week’s Sunday Opera (4/15 3:00 p.m.).  Eugene Scribe wrote the libretto for this opera which became one of the most popular operas of the 19th century after its premier in Paris on 23 February 1835.  It deals with the plight of Jews in Switzerland in the 15th century, particularly Rachel and her adoptive father Eleazar who are persecuted by the Catholic Church and are arrested after it is found that Racheal’s love Samuel is actually Prince Leopold.  

The Sunday Opera (4/8 3:00 p.m.) will, in its small way, be celebrating the centennial year of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with an afternoon of his two major operas: “Trouble in Tahiti,” and its sequel “A Quiet Place.”  “Trouble in Tahiti” had its world premiere at Brandeis University as part of their Festival of Creative Arts.  The barely finished opera which had a problematic physical production, was not particularly well received, but it was reworked and performed at Tanglewood before appearing on television, all in 1952.  

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