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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. Mr. Owen’s 2015-2016 season features 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, a performance of selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn conducted by John Storgårds, a festive concert celebrating the holiday season, and a chamber music concert of Poulenc’s La Bal masqué. Other orchestral engagements this season include performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Markus Stenz and 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 Bayerische Rundfunk, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with Markus Stenz and

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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.

Mr. Owen’s 2015-2016 season features 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, a performance of selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn conducted by John Storgårds, a festive concert celebrating the holiday season, and a chamber music concert of Poulenc’s La Bal masqué. Other orchestral engagements this season include performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Markus Stenz and 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 Bayerische Rundfunk, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with Markus Stenz and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Dvořák’s Stabat Mater with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra. He will also join Music of the Baroque as Simon in concert performances of Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus conducted by Jane Glover.

Operatic highlights of Mr. Owens’ season include 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 will be broadcast on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning Live in HD series to movie theaters around the world; he will also host the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD broadcast of Otello. He returns to the Santa Fe Opera for a role debut as La Roche in a new production of Capriccio directed by Tim Albery, and to Washington National Opera as Stephen Kumalo in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars. At the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, he will perform 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 McCarter Theatre, the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, 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 directed by Francesca Zambello. Mr. Owens also made his role debuts as the title role in Der fliegende Holländer with the Washington National Opera conducted by Phillipe Auguin, 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 season 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 Adams’s Nativity oratorio 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 NormaVodnik in Rusalka at Lyric Opera of Chicago; the title role in Handel’s Hercules with the Canadian Opera Company; Aida at Houston Grand Opera; RigolettoIl 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, Angelotti in Tosca, 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 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.

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Reviews

"Owens' idiomatic use of the text went beyond the typical big-operatic moment, turning the scene into a startlingly intimate outpouring of a being who has been all-powerful until this very moment, when he must exile his favorite daughter. The sense of resignation was monumental in singing that was disarmingly quiet but audible, thanks to his rhetorical conviction - though conductor Smith didn't always hold back the orchestra."

David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The towering bass-baritone Eric Owens … was magnificent in “Lost in the Stars.” Mr. Owens triumphed in the lead role of Stephen Kumalo. [His] complete identification with Kumalo comes through in every moment of his searing portrayal. … Mr. Owens’ delivery of the spoken lines, touched with a South African accent, was nuanced and powerful ... It was unbearably moving."

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

"Based on Alan Paton's anti-apartheid novel "Cry, the Beloved Country," this hybrid of opera and music theater is ideally served by Tazewell Thompson's sensitive, understated production; the splendid Glimmerglass chorus, made up of the company's apprentice artists; and especially the towering, heartfelt performance of Eric Owens, this summer's artist-in-residence. … His huge, lyrical bass-baritone expresses the boundless optimism of "Thousands of Miles" and the raw pain of the title song; his body, hunched in shame before the father of the man his son has killed, is equally eloquent. He makes Maxwell Anderson's text seem dignified and formal, not stilted. "

Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Owens quickly established his ability to wrap his deep voice around a text and create a distinct sense of character. You had to admire not only the nuanced tone he brought to Wolf’s 'Three Poems by Michelangelo' but the thoughtful mingling currents of reverence and passion as well. Otherworldly qualities of a darker sort informed Schumann’s 'Muttertraum' and 'Der Schatzgräber,' and in Schubert’s 'Prometheus' Mr. Owens maintained a perfect balance of dignity and rage. Other complexities, both emotional and technical, illuminated his readings of the French songs. In Debussy’s 'Beau Soir' and 'L’Âme Évaporée' he wove a strand of resignation through the music’s ravishing surface textures. His French set also included an elegant, supple account of Henri Duparc’s 'Invitation au Voyage' and a courtly (if virtually parody free) interpretation of Ravel’s 'Don Quichotte à Dulcinée.' "

Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

"American bass-baritone Eric Owens speaks to you even in his silences…. and shakes you when he sings."

Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times

"Eric Owens (Alberich) sang with mastery that would be at home in any Wagnerian golden age. "

David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer

"The chief glory of this production is Eric Owens’s performance as Alberich."

Alex Ross, The New Yorker

"Eric Owens, now one of the greatest bass-baritones in the world, was sublime as crazy Alberich."

Manuela Hoelterhoff, Bloomberg News

"Owens, an American marvel, has been hitting on all cylinders lately with triumphs around the world in the Sellars-John Adams 'Doctor Atomic' (as Gen. Leslie Groves) and as a show-stealing Alberich in the Metropolitan Opera’s new 'Das Rheingold.'(Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti handpicked the Philadelphia native to sing Lodovico in Verdi’s 'Otello' next month in Chicago and at Carnegie Hall.) He triumphed with intense and telling morning-time offerings of Hugo Wolf’s Michelangelo songs and Schumann’s towering 'Dichterliebe' at the Mayne Stage event, which marked his Chicago recital debut. A post-broadcast encore of Leporello’s Catalogue Aria from Mozart’s 'Don Giovanni' (complete with hilarious and never overdone stage movement) made one eager to see him in a full recital and back at Lyric in more roles. "

Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times

"During the Met’s new “Rheingold” last season, Mr. Owens proved an Alberich for the ages."

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

"The breakout performance here is by bass-baritone Eric Owens, who as Porgy commands the stage with a warm, sympathetic voice and presence."

Mike Silverman, Associated Press

"Bass Eric Owens's debut as Porgy is an act of possession, marked by velvety tone and disarming emotional candor. "

Allan Ulrich, Financial Times

"The great exception is Porgy, the work's emotional heart, powerfully played on Saturday by Eric Owens…If the characters in this opera tend to be two-dimensional, it's easy to make Porgy simply a saint, but Owens kept an eye on his humanity, and sang gorgeously."

Anne Midgette, Washington Post

"What happened at the opening was an exhilarating, consistently excellent presentation, headed by Eric Owens as Porgy. It’s a long way from Gershwin’s Catfish Row to Wagner’s Walhalla, but my money is on Owens traversing the distance. He sang the role of the crippled beggar…with an inner power and stunning beauty of tone."

Janos Gereben, San Francisco Examiner

"Owens has an opera singer’s ability to conceive of each song as an expression from an individual person. Within the compass of his deep, rich tone lies a reserve of gentleness as well as power. Not the kind of voice that focuses sharply on a pitch, this one is broad and open; while only medium in agility, it is surprisingly flexible in shading a wide range of volume…. Artistry of such gentility is rare, the more so from a voice whose nature wants to be big and burly, but whose owner has other plans."

John W. Freeman, Opera News

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Discography