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 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.  

It’s a perfect April Fool’s on this week’s Sunday Opera (4/1 3:00 p.m.) when we turn to Franz Josef Haydn and his farce “Il Mondo Della Luna.”  Based on a play by Carlo Goldoni, the clever Ecclitico wins both money and a bride from the foolish Buonafede with a tale that he will take him to the moon and introduce him to the society there.  We’ll turn to a 1993 recording featuring Luigi Alva, Domenico Trimarchi, Edith Mathis, Arlene Auger, Frederica von Stade, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson for this charming bit of tomfoolery.   

Two works by Sir Michael Tippett are on offer for this week’s Sunday Opera (3/25  3:00 p.m.)  His groundbreaking opera “A Midsummer Marriage” which deals with a symbolic pathway to marriage and life in the face of change will open the program.  The recording is the world premiere production from 1955 featuring Joan Sutherland, Richard Lewis, Edith Coates, and Adele Leigh and the Covent Garden Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of John Pritchard.

Familiar voices, many from the past, will be showcased on this week’s Sunday Opera (3/18  3:00 p.m.) in an all-star presentation of Giacomo Puccini’s “Il Trittico.”  We’ll sample three recordings.  The first, “Il Tabarro” stars Leontyne Price, Sherrill Milnes, and Placido Domingo.  “Suor Angelica” stars Renata Tebaldi in the title role and Giuletta Simionato as the callous Principessa.  Leo Nucci is the cantankerous “Gianni Schicchi” with Mirella Freni as his daughter Lauretta, and Roberto Alagna as her love, Rinuccio.  Also featured in this cast are Eva Podles, Barbara Frittoli, and Dalibo

The Sunday Opera: Ambroise Thomas' "Mignon"

Mar 8, 2018

We’re heading back to France for this week’s Sunday Opera (3/11 3:00 p.m.) for one of the better known works of Charles Louis Ambroise Thomas, “Mignon.”  As a special feature, both the happy and tragic endings written for this opera about the trials of a young girl who was abducted by gypsies will be presented.  Marilyn Horne is Mignon, and joining her are Alain Vanzo, Frederica Von Stade, Ruth Welting, and Andre Battedou.  Antonio De Almeda conducts the Ambrosian Opera Chorus and The Philharmonia Orchestra.  

Music by the rival of Weber and friend to Beethoven and Mendelssohn is being featured on this week’s Sunday opera (2/4  3:00 p.m.) when we’ll look at two supernatural works from the pen of Heinrich August Marschner.  The first is the opera that cemented his place as one of the important composers of German opera, “Hans Heiling” in which the prince of the gnomes searches the mortal world to find a wife but learns just how difficult finding true love can be.  

Vincenzo Bellini’s last opera, “I Puritani,” is on offer as this week’s Sunday Opera (2/25  3:00 p.m.).  It proved to be one of Bellini’s best received operas, and it was revived frequently after its premier at the Theatre-Italien on 24 January 1835.  With a libretto by Count Carlo Pepoli, it’s a story of love, mistaken infidelity, madness, opportunistic sanity, and finally, a happy ending.  

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.  

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