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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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.  

The Sunday Opera this week (1/14  3:00 p.m.) is turning to the ancient Greeks for the subject of Marc Antoine Charptentier’s “Medee,” the tragedy surrounding the sorceress who helped Jason, the man with whom she fell in love, steal the Golden Fleece.  She betrays her country and king (her father) and kills her brother in order for them to escape only then to be betrayed by Jason, leading to her murdering her children.  

We’ll be traveling to Czechoslovakia for this week’s Sunday opera (1/7  3:00 p.m.) and two works by the Czech master, Leos Janacek.  The first is a story of misplaced love and devotion that results in murder entitled “Jenufa.”  The Jenufa in a recording from 1986 is the wonderful Elisabeth Soderstrom, Peter Dvorsky is Steva, the object of her misplaced love, and Wieslav Ochman is the misunderstood Laca.  The second opera also features Elisabeth Soderstrom in the lead, this time as Emilia Marty, the woman who has lived for over 300 years in “The Makropulos Case.”  

A “complete failure” will air as this week’s Sunday Opera (12/31  3:00 p.m.) when Handel’s “Serse” (“Xerxes”) will be presented.  In 1738, this mix of high tragedy and low comedy went against the desires of audiences of the day, but it is this mix that has made it one of Handel’s most beloved and staged operas after, possibly, “Julius Caesar.”  Add to the tragi-comic mix that the king does not get what he wants, accepts it with humility, and lives to tell about it, well, it just made for a bad night of 18th century theatergoing.  Our cast from a 1998 recording includes Judith Malafronte as Xerxes, Jennifer Smith as Romilda, the object of his desire, Susan Bickley as Amastre, the princess to whom he’s been betrothed, and Brian Asawa as Xerxes’ brother Arsamene, the man who loves and is loved by Romilda.  

Two Christmas themed operas, and some additional holiday music, will be featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (12/24  3:00 p.m.).   The first is Hans Pfitzner’s charming fantasy entitled “Das Christ-Elflein” about a wood elf who travels with the Christ Child in order to find out more about humans and the celebration of Christmas.  The cast includes Helen Donath, Janet Perry, Alexander Malta, and Nikolaus Hilebrand with Kurt Eichhorn conducting.  

This week’s Sunday Opera (12/17  3:00 p.m.) is one of understanding, love, and compassion in Alexander von Zemlinsky’s “Der Traumgorge” which follows Gorge who loses his love Grete because of the fairytale world in which he lives.  He travels to find his idealized fairytale princess only to find another, Gertraud, who lives in pain, poverty, and loneliness, being accused of witchcraft and arson.  As he comes to understand Gertraud, and through his own poverty, Gorge finds meaning in his life.  David Kuebler is Gorge, and the three women in his life, Gertraud, Grete, and the Princess are Pa

A forgotten tragedy from 1839 will be featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (12/10  3:00 p.m.) with the broadcast of Saverio Mercadante’s “Il Bravo.”  Based on a play that was, in turn, based on the novel “The Bravo” by James Fenimore Cooper, the libretto explores the inability of the Venetian government to properly care for its citizens.  Dino Di Domenico leads the cast as Il Bravo in this 1991 recording, and he’s joined by Adelisa Tabiadon, Janet Perry, Sergio Bertocchi, and Stefano Antonucci along with the Bratislava Philharmonic Chorus and The Italian International Orchestra with Bruno A

We’ll head out west for this week’s Sunday Opera (12/3  3:00 p.m.) and an adaptation by Craig Bohmler and Steven Mark Kohn of Zane Grey’s novel considered by many to be the greatest western ever written, “Riders of the Purple Sage,” a story of religious persecution and cattle rustlers.  The cast from Arizona Opera includes Laura Wilde as Jane, Joshua Jeremiah as Lassiter, Amanda Opuszynski as Bess, and Joshua Dennis as Venters with Joseph Mechavich conducting.   Following the opera, join host Michael Kownacky for more American music: a secular cantata by Paul Moravec entitled “The Blizzard

“Amleto,” an opera by Franco Faccio that disappeared for over 140 years, is the special treat on this week’s Sunday Opera (11/26  3:00 p.m.).  This broadcast is from the 2014 production by Opera Southwest and was realized and reconstructed by Southwest’s Artistic Director and conductor Anthony Barrese.  The opera premiered on May 30, 1865 in Genoa and was revised in 1871 for a La Scala production after which Faccio withdrew the score which was not to be heard again until the 21st century.  Alex Richardson stars in the title role, and he’s joined by Abla Hamza as his Ofelia, Shannon DeVine a

The Sunday Opera travels to Albuquerque’s Opera Southwest this week (11/19  3:00 p.m.) for Giocchino Rossini’s “Tancredi.”  The libretto by Gaetano Rossi (who would write the libretto for Rossini’s “Semiramide” ten years later) features both a happy and tragic ending for this story that includes a love story that is affected by false assumptions and disguise.  Heather Johnson stars in the title role, and the rest of the cast includes Lindsay Ohse, Heath Huberg, Matthew Curran, Madelyn Wanner, and Chelsea Duval-Major in a production conducted by Anthony Barrese.

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