Acclaimed for his commanding stage presence and inventive artistry, American bass-baritone ERIC OWENS has carved a unique place in the contemporary opera world as both an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music. Equally at home in concert, recital and opera performances, Owens continues to bring his powerful poise, expansive voice and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world.
During the 2012-2013 season, Owens appears in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the San Francisco Opera alongside Joyce DiDonato and Nicole Cabell, and in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Los Angeles Opera. After a performance of Elijah by Mendelssohn with Pacific Chorale, Owens is a soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Seattle Symphony. January sees Owens in a special jazz concert with Bobby McFerrin in Miami. His winter continues with the Marin Alsop and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Owens's season ends with an interpretation of Bach's Mass in B minor with the New York Philharmonic and a return to the role of Alberich in the complete Ring cycle of Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera.
Last season, Owens delighted audiences both in opera halls and recital theaters. Owens embarked on a significant recital tour with pianists Robert Spano and Craig Rutenberg. With engagements in Washington, D.C., Berkeley, Portland and Philadelphia, Owens also performed at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall and sang Bach cantatas with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Owens also continued his work with the Metropolitan Opera’s Ring cycle, appearing as Alberich in Siegfried and in Götterdämmerung. Owens performed Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, one of three appearances there in 2011-2012, including Jochanaan in Strauss’ Salome with the Cleveland Orchestra. Summer began with Owens reprising the role of the Storyteller in A Flowering Tree by John Adams with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He continued his summer at Glimmerglass Festival as the Artist in Residence, appearing in Aida and Lost in the Stars, and performing a jazz concert.
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. 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. Owens made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut under the baton of David Robertson in Adams’s Nativity oratorio El Niño.
Owens’s career operatic highlights include his San Francisco Opera debut in Otello conducted by Donald Runnicles; his Royal Opera, Covent Garden, debut in Norma; 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, Owens has sung Sarastro, Mephistopheles in Faust, Frère Laurent, Angelotti in Tosca, and Aristotle Onassis in the world premiere of Jackie O (available on the Argo label) with that company. 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. Owens has been recognized with multiple awards, including the 2003 Marian Anderson Award, a 1999 ARIA award, and 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, 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.