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 2019/20 season, Mr. Owens will open the Metropolitan Opera season, starring as Porgy in James Robinson’s production of Porgy and Bess. He returns to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Wotan in Sir David Pountney’s production of the complete Ring cycle conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. He also makes his role debut as King Marke in Tristan und Isolde at Santa Fe Opera conducted by James Gaffigan. Concert appearances include Brahms’s Requiem at Palau de la Musica conducted by James Gaffigan, Jochanaan in Salome with the Malmö Symfoniorkester conducted by Robert Trevino. He will also go on a recital tour performing Schubert’s Winterreise with Jeremy Denk.
In the 2018/19 season, Mr. Owens returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago making his role debut as the Wanderer in David Pountney’s new production of Siegfried. He also starred as Porgy in James Robinson’s new production of Porgy and Bess at the Dutch National Opera and made his role debut as Hagen in Götterdämmerung at the Metropolitan Opera conducted by Philippe Jordan. Concert appearances included the world premiere of David Lang’s prisoner of the state 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 Requiem with the Minnesota Orchestra, and Mozart’s Requiem with Music of the Baroque. Mr. Owens also embarked 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 Die Walküre. He also sang King Philip II in Don Carlo at Washington National Opera, Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville at Houston Grand Opera, and the Forester in 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.
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 LA 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 Water Spirit in Rusalka conducted by Sir Mark Elder at the Met; Voice of Neptune in Idomeneo conducted by James Levine at the Met; Jaufre Rudel in Robert Lepage’s production of L’Amour de Loin conducted by Susanna Malkki at the Met; the title role of The Flying Dutchman and Stephen Kumalo in Weill’s Lost in the Stars at Washington National Opera; his San Francisco Opera debut in Otello conducted by Donald Runnicles; his Royal Opera House Covent Garden debut in Norma; the Water Sprite 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 Bohème at LA Opera; The Magic Flute for his Paris Opera (Bastille) debut; the title role of Macbeth at the Glimmerglass Festival; and Ariodante and The Coronation of 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 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 became the co-chair of the Curtis Institute’s opera department.