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.
Eric Owens launches the 2016-17 season with his role debut as Wotan in David Pountney’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He will sing a trio of operas at the Metropolitan Opera that include 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. Other highlights include recitals with Susanna Phillips at Carnegie Hall and Lawrence Brownlee at Lyric Opera of Chicago, a gala celebrating the Metropolitan Opera’s 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center, and for the third time he joins the Chicago Symphony’s Negaunee Music Institute to present an interactive recital for incarcerated youth with Riccardo Muti and Joyce DiDonato. Mr. Owens rounds out his season singing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Le Coq d’Or at Santa Fe Opera.
The 2015-2016 season featured Mr. Owens in several collaborations with the New York Philharmonic as the Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, including a tribute to legendary African-American singers and their legacy titled In Their Footsteps, a concert of Strauss selections and excerpts from Act 3 of Wagner’s Die Walküre conducted by Alan Gilbert, and a festive concert celebrating the holiday season. Other orchestral engagements during the season included performances of Bruckner’s Te Deum with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the St. Louis Symphony, as well as with Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Bayerischer Rundfunk, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Dvořák’s Stabat Mater with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra. He also joined Music of the Baroque as Simon in concert performances of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus.
Operatic highlights of his 2015-16 season included his return to the Metropolitan Opera as Orest in a new production of Elektra by legendary director Patrice Chéreau, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, which was broadcast on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning Live in HD series. He also hosted the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD broadcast of Otello. He returned to Washington National Opera as Stephen Kumalo in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars. At the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, he performed an evening of jazz standards featuring the music of Billy Eckstine and Johnny Hartman, and he will also appear in recital under the auspices of the Oberlin College and Conservatory, Troy Chromatic Concerts, and the Curtis Institute of Music.
Mr. Owens began his 2014-2015 season with the Berlin Philharmonic in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and directed by Peter Sellars, with staged performances at the Lucerne Festival, BBC Proms, and New York’s Park Avenue Armory as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival. He returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he is a Community Ambassador, for performances of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Mr. Owens also made his role debuts as the title role in Der fliegende Holländer with Washington National Opera, King Philip II in Don Carlo at Opera Philadelphia, and the title role in Macbeth at the Glimmerglass Festival, where he returned as an Artist-in-Residence.
Symphonic highlights of Mr. Owens’ recent seasons included performances of Verdi’s Requiem with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges with the Swedish Radio Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, both under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. He also performed a duo recital with soprano Susanna Phillips under the auspices of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.
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; his San Francisco Opera debut in Otello conducted by Donald Runnicles; his Royal Opera, Covent Garden, debut in Norma; Vodnik in Rusalka 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 Bohème at Los Angeles opera; Die Zauberflöte for his Paris Opera (Bastille) debut; and Ariodante 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. Mr. Owens is featured on two Telarc recordings with the Atlanta Symphony: Mozart’s Requiem and scenes from Strauss’ Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten, both conducted by Donald Runnicles. He is featured on the Nonesuch Records release of A Flowering Tree.
Mr. Owens 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.
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.