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

Umberto Giordano is our composer for two tales of doomed love on this week’s Sunday Opera (10/1   3:00 p.m.).  We continue with our season from the San Francisco Opera and their recent production of “Andrea Chenier.”  The poet Chenier (Yonghoon Lee) is falsely accused by the servant Gerard (George Gagnidze) and sentenced to death during the French Revolution.

The first Dress Circle program of October (10/1   7:00 p.m.) will be the traditional monthly feature that looks at some of the shows that opened this month.  This time we’ll be including some recent works like “Big Fish” and “The Last Ship” as well as looking back at favorites like “Cabin in the Sky,” “Mack and Mabel,” and “The Boy from Oz” with performances by Julie Andrews, Hugh Jackman, Norbert Leo Butz, Bernadette Peters, and more.  The varied menu will also include “High Button Shoes,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Wicked,” and “Porgy and Bess.”   Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and that y

Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” with Lianna Haroutounian in the title role is this week’s Sunday Opera (9/24 3:00 p.m.) from the San Francisco Opera.  The libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa was based on a play by David Bilasco which in turn was based on a short story by John Luther Long.  That short story’s basis was in stories told to Long by his sister along with the French novel “Madame Chrysantheme” by Pierre Loti.  The two-act version that premiered at La Scala on February 17, 1904 was poorly received, but Puccini re-wrote it into a three-act opera and included the now-famous h

To many people, the name Johnny Burke is unknown, and we’ll be trying to remedy that on this week’s Dress Circle (9/24 7:00 p.m.) when we air a Johnny Burke Songbook.  We guarantee you’ll know many of the songs penned by this gifted lyricist who also wrote music when the occasion arose, and we’ll sample some of those songs from his Broadway musical “Donnybrook!” based on “The Quiet Man,” as well as some of his film work for the “Road” films of Hope and Crosby, “Rio,” “Morocco,” and “Utopia.”  Please join us every Sunday evening or as a webcast on The Classical Network’s website.  You can al

Performances from the San Francisco Opera continue on this weeks’ Sunday Opera (9/17 3 p.m.) with another tale of doomed love in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.”   Leah Crocetto sings the title role, Brian Jagde is her Radames, and Ekaterina Semenchuk is the spurned Amneris.  They’re joined by George Gagnidze as Amonasro, Raymond Aceto as Ramfis, and Anthony Reed as the King of Egypt.  Nicola Luisotti conducts.  Stay tuned after the opera for some interesting Verdi including the sinfonia for “Aida” that was written, but never used, for the opera’s European premier in 1887 as well as another rarity,

This week’s Dress Circle (9/17  7 p.m.) is taking a second look at some of our “new to us” recent acquisitions before they enter our permanent catalogue to be used in upcoming programs.  We’re including a few cast recordings including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the failed 2015 revival of “Gigi” which starred Vanessa Hudgens, and the current London cast of “Dreamgirls” starring Amber Riley.  Composer Charles Strouse will perform a few of his own works from the CD "Charles Strouse Sings," and we'll also showcase Kristin Chenoweth in performance from her televised special "Coming Home."

Join us as we’re treated to an archival performance of “La Gioconda” from the San Francisco Opera this Sunday (9/7 – 3:00 p.m.).  This 1979 production of the Amilcare Ponchielli / Arrigo Boito (under the pseudonym/anagram Tobia Gorrio) opera features the debuts of Renata Scotto and Luciano Pavarotti in the roles of La Gioconda and Enzo Grimaldo.  The love story based on the play “Angelo, Tyrant of Padua” by Victor Hugo, follows a famous singer as she gives up her happiness and life for the man she loves because of a kindness shown to her mother by her rival.  This cast also includes Ferruc

It’s all about some “recent acquisitions” on this week’s Dress Circle (9/10 – 7:00 p.m.).  One of us has had extra time on his hands, so the time for shopping in on-line bargain bins for CDs has increased.  The result is that we’ve had an influx of “new to us” CDs that we’d like to share before they get worked into our catalogue for future Dress Circle programming.  This week is the first of two programs and will include selections from The Burt Bacharach Album: Broadway Sings the Best of Burt Bacharach, Young Love: The Best of Tab Hunter, the current Broadway hit “Waitress,” a wonderful mu

The season from the Los Angeles Opera ends this Sunday (9/3 3:00 p.m.) with the final installment of LA Opera’s “Figaro trilogy” with John Corigliano’s brilliant mix of history and art, “Ghosts of Versailles.”  Beaumarchais (Christopher Maltman) uses his beloved characters, Figaro (Luca Meachem), Count Almaviva (Joshua Guerraro), Rosina (Guanqun Yu), and Susanna (Lucy Schafer) to help Marie Antoinette (Patricia Racette) find love and eternal peace and escape the evil Begearss (Robert Brubaker).  This production features a cameo appearance by Patti Lupone as “Samira, the Turkish Entertainer.

The Dress Circle this week (9/3 7:00 p.m.) will welcome in the month of September by looking at just a few of the shows that have opened this month.  Our “baker’s dozen” includes the sadly overlooked “Fine and Dandy” by one of Broadway’s lady composers, Kay Swift along with Bock & Harnick’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” Marguerite Monnot’s “Irma La Douce,” Sandy Willson’s “The Boy Friend,” Mark Hollmann’s “Urinetown,” and the 2011 revival of Sondheim’s “Follies.”   The varied list also includes songs from Friml’s “The Vagabond King,” Berlin’s “As Thousands Cheer,” and the 1974 revival of “Gyps

LA Opera’s second operatic look at Beaumarchais’ roguish Figaro will be featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (8/27 – 3:00 p.m.) in their production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”  Roberto Tagliavini takes the title role with Pretty Yende his beloved Susanna.  The Count and Countess Almaviva are Ryan McKinny and Guanqun Yu.  Rounding out the cast you’ll hear Renee Rapier as the impish Cherubino, Kristinn Sigmundsson as Dr.

For many, it’s truly the “most wonderful time of year” as it’s back to school time for many communities.  As always, we’ll be celebrating the happy event with a visit from some of our favorites including songs from “New Faces of 1952,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “That’s What Kids Do,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,”  and "School of Rock” among several others.  We’re also including two wonderful monologues by the charming British comedienne Joyce Grenfell.  As always, you can visit us at www.DCSRO.com or on Facebook.  

LA Opera on Air begins a three opera series featuring Beaumarchais’ best-known character, Figaro, on this week’s Sunday Opera (8/20 3:00 p.m.) with Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”  Our Figaro in this production is Rodion Pogossov, and the couple he helps to find true love (for now), Count Almaviva and Rosina, are performed by Rene Barbera and Elizabeth DeShong.  Rosina’s peevish and somewhat lascivious guardian, Doctor Bartolo, is sung by LA favorite, Kristinn Sigmundsson.  After the opera, please join host Michael Kownacky for more music by Rossini, his Cantata in Honor of Pop

The Dress Circle will be taking a second look at the Smithsonian American Songbook CD series on this week’s program (8/20 7:00 p.m.).  This time, our composers include Duke Ellington, Kurt Weill, Richard Whiting, and Harold Arlen and will include performances by Rosemary Clooney, Dick Powell, Mildred Bailey, Bobby Short, Alice Faye, Nat King Cole, Ethel Merman, and Pearl Bailey along with several others.  Join us for an hour of delightfully nostalgic songs performed by some of the best singers of the 20th century.  

Jacques Offenbach’s charming setting of stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann will be on air for this week’s Sunday Opera (8/13 – 3:00 p.m.).  This performance from the Los Angeles Opera stars Vittorio Grigolo in as Hoffmann and Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse and The Muse of Poetry.  Nicolas Teste appears as the four foils in Hoffmann’s life, Lindorf, Coppelius,  Dapertutto, and Dr.

A ”songbook” of the Broadway works by Frank Wildhorn will air this Sunday (8/13 - 7:oo p.m.) on The Dress Circle.  Broadway audiences first heard the music of Wildhorn in 1997 when he added three songs, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, to the stage version of “Victor/Victoria” after the death of Henry Mancini.  Within two years, his first complete show and biggest hit “Jekyll & Hyde,” with book and lyrics by Bricusse, would be the talk of Broadway and go on to run for 1543 performances.

To borrow a few lines from the musicals, “It’s too darn hot,” “We’re having a heat wave,” and “Ain’t it awful the heat; ain’t it awful?” which is why there are so few Broadway openings in the months of July and August: It was simply too hot for both cast and audience.  Shows closed for the summer or moved to a “summer home” somewhere in the country until the heat broke.  Shows were even performed in mostly open-air spaces on rooftops to “beat the heat.”  Because there were fewer shows during the sumer, we combine the openings from July and August so that we can still feature a varied menu o

The late South African tenor Johan Bohta excels in the title role in Wagner’s “Tannhauser” in this week’s Sunday Opera (7/30 3:00 p.m.).  This 2015 performance from the Lyric Opera of Chicago which follows the poet / knight Tannhauser’s struggle between the love of the worldly pleasures in abundance in Venusberg and the emotional love he finds with Elisabeth also includes Amber Wagner as Elisabeth, Michaela Schuster as the jealous Venus, Gerald Finley as another poet Wolfram, and John Relyea as Elisabeth’s uncle Landgraf.  Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus and Orch

It’ll be a bit of nostalgia on this week’s Dress Circle (7/30 – 7:00 p.m.) as we take our first look at a series of CDs published under the title The Smithsonian American Songbook.  This program will look at songs by a variety of composers and lyricists such as Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser, E.Y.

Mozart’s much loved “Don Giovanni” is this week’s Sunday Opera (7/23 - 3:00 pm).  This performance of the story surrounding the nefarious doings and ultimate punishment of the licentious Don Juan comes from the 2015 season of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Mariusz Kwiecien reprises his performance in the title role from the previous season, and he is joined by Kyle Ketelsen as Leoporello, Marina Rebeka as Donna Anna, Ana Maria Martinez as Donna Elvira, and Andrea Churchman as Zerlina with Sir Andrew Davis conducting the Lyric Opera Chorus and Orchestra.  After the opera, join Michael Kownacky

Beginning with Memorial Day in May, many communities enjoy a summer of a variety of parades, and this week’s Dress Circle (7/23 – 7:00 pm) will be looking at some of the parades featured in a variety of musicals including a desire to be included from “Anyone Can Whistle,” the parade of humanity found in “Grand Hotel,” the one and only Macy’s parade in “Here’s Love,” a wedding parade in “Flower Drum Song,” and an anthem to life from “Hello, Dolly!” along with many more familiar and unfamiliar shows.  Don’t forget to join us on Face Book and at our website www.DCSRO.com.  You’ll also find rec

Performances from The Lyric Opera of Chicago continue this week (7/16 3:00 p.m.) with their production of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” featuring Mariusz Kwiecien as Onegin.  Joining him will be Ana Maria Martinez as Tatyana, Charles Castronovo as Lensky, Alisa Kolosova as Olga, and as Prince Gremin, Dmitry Belosselskiy.  Alejo Perez conducts the Lyric Opera Chorus and Orchestra.  Tchaikovsky’s music will also be featured after the opera when Michael Kownacky will conclude the program with the Manfred Symphony, Op. 58 performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Ricardo Chailly.

The Dress Circle this week (7/16 7:00 p.m.) will feature the second program in our series celebrating the life and talents of George Gershwin.  Along with selections from musicals such as “Lady Be Good!”, “Oh, Kay,” and “Funny Face” as well as the films “Delicious” and “The Goldwyn Follies” which was the last film for which Gershwin wrote songs before his death.  Join us for some familiar and unfamiliar music from this American original, and don’t forget to look for webcasts of programs you may have missed.

One of the world’s best known and best loved operas will be featured on this week’s Sunday Opera (7/9 – 3:00 p.m.) when the recent Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” will air.  Anita Rachvelishvili is the Carmen, and her Don Jose is Chicago regular Brandon Jovanovich.  Also included in the cast are Eleonora Buratto as Micaela and Christian Van Horn as Escamillo.  The production’s conductor is Ainars Rubikis.  After the opera, join Michael Kownacky for more music of Bizet including his charming Symphony in C major written, and discarded, when he was seventeen and

George Gershwin died tragically young on July 11, 1937, just weeks away from his 39th birthday, and to mark the 80th anniversary of his death, we'll be airing two programs dedicated to his work.

Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma” from the Lyric Opera of Chicago is this week’s Sunday Opera (7/2 – 3:00 p.m.).  This excellent example of the Bel Canto genre tells the tragic story of the conflict between love and duty and features Sondra Radvanovsky as the Druid priestess Norma who has secretly loved and bore the children of the Roman governor Pollione (Russell Thomas).   When Pollione turns his affections to Norma’s assistant, Adalgisa (Elizabeth DeShong), the action is set in motion for a fiery conclusion.  The cast also includes Andrea Silvestrelli as Oroveso, Norma’s high priest fa

The Dress Circle this week (7/2 7:00 p.m.)  will be taking a second look at musicals that have been performed in concert settings.  Usually, this is done to aid a charity and features an all-star cast.  This is true in the case of the concert version of "Dreamgirls" which was in benefit of The Actors' Fund.  This recording starred Lillias White, Audra McDonald, Heather Headley, and Billy Porter.

Performances from the Lyric Opera of Chicago continue this Sunday (6/25 - 3:00 pm) with Mozart's perennial favorite battle of Good vs. Evil, "The Magic Flute."  The cast from Chicago includes Christiane Karg as Pamina, Matthew Polenzani as Tamino, Adam Plachetka as Papageno, and Kathryn Lewek as The Queen of the Night.  Also appearing are Christof Fischesser as Sarastro, Diana Newman as Papagena, and David Govertsen as the Speaker.  Rory MacDonald will conduct the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

It's going to be a Glee-ful program this Sunday (6/25 - 7:00 pm) as The Dress Circle takes a look at the six seasons of the wildly popular series dedicated to high school choral singing, "Glee."  The show ran for 121 episodes and included over 728 music performances by its talented cast as well as some of the biggest names from the worlds of Broadway and pop music.   Joining regular cast members like Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, and Naya Rivera you'll hear performances by Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth in songs from Broadway and Hollywood.

Miguel Cervantes' illustrious hero will be tilting at windmills this Sunday, 6/18, at 3 pm.  Jules Massenet's "Don Quichotte" from the Lyric Opera of Chicago will star Feruccio Ferlanetto in the title role with Clementine Margaine as his Dulcinee, and Nicola Alaimo as Sancho.  Sir Andrew Davis will be leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.  After the opera, host Michael Kownacky will continue the Massenet afternoon with a gorgeous ballet version of "Manon" compiled from pieces in Massenet's catalogue by Leighton Lucas (and Hilda Gaunt) with no music from Massenet's "Manon."   

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