Bass-baritone Eric Owens has a unique reputation as an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music. Equally at home in orchestral, recital, and operatic repertoire, Mr. Owens brings his powerful poise, expansive voice, and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world.
In the 2018-2019 season, Mr. Owens returns to Lyric Opera of Chicago to make his role debut as the Wanderer in David Poutney’s new production of Wagner’s Siegfried. He also stars as Porgy in James Robinson’s new production of Porgy and Bess at the Dutch National Opera and makes his role debut as Hagen in Götterdämmerung at the Metropolitan Opera conducted by Philippe Jordan. Concert appearances include the world premiere of David Lang’s prisoner of the people at the New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden, the King in Aïda at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti, Verdi’s Requiemwith the Minnesota Orchestra, and Mozart’s Requiem with Music of the Baroque. Mr. Owens will also go on a multi-city recital tour with tenor Lawrence Brownlee.
Mr. Owens launched the 2017-18 season with his role debut as Wotan in David Pountney’s new production of Wagner’s Die Walküre. He also sang Filippo II in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Washington National Opera, Don Basilio in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Houston Grand Opera, and the Forester in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the Glimmerglass Festival, where he served as Artist in Residence and Artistic Advisor. Concert appearances included Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti, Verdi’s Requiem with both the National Symphony Orchestra led by Gianandrea Noseda and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Music of the Baroque.
The 2016-2017 season featured Mr. Owens in his role debut as Wotan in David Pountney’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He sang a trio of operas at the Metropolitan Opera that included the Met premiere of Kaijo Saariaho’s L’amour de Loin, a new production of Rusalka under Sir Mark Elder, and a revival of Idomeneo conducted by James Levine, all of which were broadcast through the Met’s Live in HD series. Concert highlights included joining Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic for performances as Wotan in Das Rheingold and of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which he also performed at the Cincinnati May Festival as its Artist in Residence, a gala celebrating the Metropolitan Opera’s Fiftieth Anniversary at Lincoln Center, and performances as Orest in Strauss’s Elektra at the Verbier Festival and Méphistophélès in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He also gave a recital at the Cleveland Art Song Festival, performed dual recitals with Susanna Phillips at the Washington Performing Arts and Lawrence Brownlee at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and William Jewell College, and appeared with the Chicago Symphony’s Negaunee Music Institute to present an interactive recital for incarcerated youth alongside Riccardo Muti and Joyce DiDonato.
Mr. Owens has created an uncommon niche for himself in the ever-growing body of contemporary opera works through his determined tackling of new and challenging roles. He received great critical acclaim for portraying the title role in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel with the Los Angeles Opera, and again at the Lincoln Center Festival, in a production directed and designed by Julie Taymor. Mr. Owens also enjoys a close association with John Adams, for whom he performed the role of General Leslie Groves in the world premiere of Doctor Atomic at the San Francisco Opera, and of the Storyteller in the world premiere of A Flowering Tree at Peter Sellars’s New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna and later with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Doctor Atomic was later recorded and received the 2012 Grammy for Best Opera Recording. Mr. Owens made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut under the baton of David Robertson in Adam’s El Niño.
Mr. Owens’s career operatic highlights include Alberich in the Metropolitan Opera’s Ring cycle directed by Robert Lepage; Orest in Patrice Chereau’s production of Elektra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Met; the title role of Der Fliegende Höllander and Stephen Kumalo in Weill’s Lost in the Stairs at Washington National Opera; his San Francisco Opera debut in Otello conducted by Donald Runnicles; his Royal Opera, Covent Garden, debut in Norma; Vodnik in Rusalka and Porgy in Porgy and Bess at Lyric Opera of Chicago; the title role in Handel’s Hercules with the Canadian Opera Company; Aida at Houston Grand Opera; Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Bohèmeat Los Angeles Opera; Die Zauberflöte for his Paris Opera (Bastille) debut; the title role of Macbeth at the Glimmerglass Festival; andAriodante and L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the English National Opera. He sang Collatinus in a highly-acclaimed Christopher Alden production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Glimmerglass Opera. A former member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Mr. Owens has sung Sarastro, Mephistopheles in Faust, Frère Laurent, and Aristotle Onassis in the world premiere of Jackie O (available on the Argo label) with that company. He is featured on the Nonesuch Records release of A Flowering Tree. Mr. Owens is an avid concert singer, who collaborates closely with conductors such as Alan Gilbert, Riccardo Muti, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sir Simon Rattle, Donald Runnicles, and Franz Welser-Möst.
He has been recognized with multiple honors, including the Musical America’s 2017 “Vocalist of the Year” award, 2003 Marian Anderson Award, a 1999 ARIA award, second prize in the Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition. In 2017, the Glimmerglass Festival appointed him as its Artistic Advisor.
A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Owens began his musical training as a pianist at the age of six, followed by formal oboe study at age eleven under Lloyd Shorter of the Delaware Symphony and Louis Rosenblatt of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He studied voice while an undergraduate at Temple University, and then as a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music. He currently studies with Armen Boyajian. He serves on the Board of Trustees of both the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and Astral Artistic Services. Starting in 2019, Mr. Owens becomes the co-chair of the Curtis Institute’s opera department.