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 Lyric Opera of Chicago returns to the Sunday Opera (8/19 3:00 p.m.) with Hector Berlioz’s epic work “Les Troyens” for which he wrote the libretto himself based on Virgil’s retelling of the circumstances surrounding the Trojan War, the “Aeneid.”  Sir Andrew Davis conducts a cast that includes Christine Goerke as Cassandre, Susan Graham as Didon, Brandon Jovanovich as Enee, Lucas Meachem as Chorebe, Christian Van Horn as Narbal, and Okka von der Damerau as Anna.

The first part of our centennial celebration of the life and career of Leonard Bernstein is this week’s Dress Circle (8/19 7:00 p.m.).  Although he is probably best known for his work in the classical music realm, we’ll be focusing on his works for the stage, and this first program will look at a variety of his musicals and will feature performances from “On the Town” (1944), “Peter Pan" (1950), “Wonderful Town” (1953), “Candide” (1956), and “West Side Story” (1957).  For this program, we’ll be featuring original cast, revival cast, and studio cast recordings.  

Put on your dancing shoes!  No, Julian Marsh is not doing a show; they’re doin’ choreography on this week’s Dress Circle (8/12 7:00 p.m.)  There was a time when just about every show included a ballet or extended dance scenes, and we’ll be sampling some of them this week.  Some of those dances include the “Sadie Hawkins’ Day Ballet” from “Li’l Abner,” the “Halloween Interlude” Dance from “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” the “Twins Ballet” from “The Boys from Syracuse,” and from “Make a Wish,” “The Sale Ballet.”  

The age-old story of good being undermined by corrupt forces and the forbidden question comes to us from the Lyric Opera of Chicago on this week’s Sunday Opera (8/12 3:00 p.m.) and their production of “Lohengrin” by Richard Wagner.  Knight of the Grail Lohengrin, son of Parsifal, is sent to Brabant to unify the people and protect the unjustly accused Elsa under the proviso that he does so anonymously and that no one must ever ask his name.  Of course, Elsa asks, and loses both Lohengrin and her life as a result.  

You may not know the composer’s name on this week’s Dress Circle (8/5 7:00 p.m.), but you’re sure to know many of the songs penned by the wonderful James “Jimmy” McHugh.  With lyricists like Dorothy Fields, Harold Adamson, and Ted Koehler, McHugh’s prolific career spanned three decades with songs for the stage and screen.  Join us as we celebrate the career of this wonderful composer with songs that appeared in the films “Higher and Higher” and “Bring on the Girls” as well as the revue of his music entitled “Lucky in the Rain.”  

We’re staying in England for this week’s Sunday Opera (8/5 3:00 p.m.) and the Opera North production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera.”  Without the censors of the 1850s, Antonio Somma’s libretto is set, as it was first intended, in Sweden, where the opera deals with the political machinations surrounding the assassination of King Gustavus III.  The cast includes Rafael Rojas as Gustavus, Adrienn Miksch as Amelia, Philip Rhodes as Count Anckarstroem (Renato), Patricia Bardon as the fortune teller Ulrika, and Tereza Georgyan as Gustavus’ page Oscar.  

We’ll be looking at July and August together for our show openings on this week’s Dress Circle (7/29 7:00 p.m.) since Broadway openings slow during the summer months with the exception of this year where there will be no fewer than four new musicals opening.  However, since they haven’t opened yet, we don’t have any music from them and won’t be mentioning them.  The “summer shows” we will be mentioning include the 1997 revival of “1776,” the riotous revue “Two on the Aisle,” one of Langston Hughes’ Broadway musicals “Simply Heavenly,” and the high-energy “Hairspray.”  

Join us as we travel to Glasgow for this week’s Sunday Opera (7/29 3:00 p.m.) and the Scottish Opera’s production of “Eugene Onegin.”  Tchaikovsky’s glorious adaptation of Pushkin’s novel features Samuel Dale Johnson as the jaded Onegin, Peter Auty as the doomed Lensky, and Natalya Romaniw as the naïve Tatyana.  Also in the cast are Sioned Gwen Davies as Tatyana’s sister Olga, Alison Kettlewell as their mother Larina, Anne-Marie Owens as their servant Filipyevna, and Graeme Broadbent as Prince Gremin.  Stuart Stratford conducts.  

The Dress Circle will shine a spotlight on Glenn Close this week (7/22 7:00 p.m.) in performances which might be unfamiliar to many, her outings in Broadway musicals with selections from the Richard Rodgers and Martin Charnin musical about Henry VIII entitled “Rex” where she played Princess Mary, as Charity Barnum in Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart’s “Barnum,” and her much lauded performance as Norma Desmund in “Sunset Boulevard” by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black, and Christopher Hampton.  

We looked at music of George Gershwin last week on The Dress Circle, and this week (7/15 7:00 p.m.) we’ll concentrate on lyrics by his brother Ira but with composers other than George.  Those composers supplying the music for Ira include Kurt Weill, who got Ira to begin writing again after George’s death, Harold Arlen, Harry Warren, and Burton Lane.  

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 Dress Circle is celebrating the life of George Gershwin this week (7/8  7:00 p.m.) as we approach the 81st anniversary of his untimely death on July 11, 1937 with a program of his lesser-known works with his brother Ira as well as with other lyricists.  Included will be songs from shows like 1925’s “Tip-Toes,” “Sweet Little Devil” from 1924, and “Primrose” written expressly for the London stage in 1924.  Although they were all well received, they have been forgotten.  

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.  

It's all about cinema nostalgia on this week’s Dress Circle (7/1  7:00 p.m.) as we sample some popular artists singing theme songs from some memorable films.  The vocalists include Doris Day, Cliff Edwards, Johnny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Bob Hope, and Mario Lanza, and some of film themes are “Dear Heart,” “Wild Is the Wind,” “Golden Earrings,” “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” “Because You’re Mine,” and “Three Coins in the Fountain” just to name a few.  Don’t forget to look for us on Facebook as well as our own website at www.DCSRO.com for more information. 

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