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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 performances, Mr. Owens brings his powerful poise, expansive voice, and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world. Mr. Owens begins his 2014-2015 season by rejoining Sir Simon Rattle, Peter Sellars, and the Berlin Philharmonic for highly anticipated performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Lucerne Festival. Additional performances of the production take place at The BBC Proms festival and New York’s Park Avenue Armory as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.  Mr. Owens opens his operatic season by returning to Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he has been appointed as their Community Ambassador, for performances of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess directed by Francesca Zambello. He will also appear in his title role debut of Der fliegende Holländer with the Washington National Opera conducted by Phillipe Auguin. Owens makes additional role debuts this season as King Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Opera

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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 performances, Mr. Owens brings his powerful poise, expansive voice, and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world.

Mr. Owens begins his 2014-2015 season by rejoining Sir Simon Rattle, Peter Sellars, and the Berlin Philharmonic for highly anticipated performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Lucerne Festival. Additional performances of the production take place at The BBC Proms festival and New York’s Park Avenue Armory as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.  Mr. Owens opens his operatic season by returning to Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he has been appointed as their Community Ambassador, for performances of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess directed by Francesca Zambello. He will also appear in his title role debut of Der fliegende Holländer with the Washington National Opera conducted by Phillipe Auguin. Owens makes additional role debuts this season as King Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Opera Philadelphia, Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the title role in Verdi’s Macbeth at the Glimmerglass Festival where he returns as an Artist-in-Residence.

Symphonic highlights of the season include performances of Verdi’s Requiem with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, and Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortileges with the Swedish Radio Symphony under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen. Mr. Owens and Mr. Salonen then bring L'enfant et les sortileges and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, in which Mr. Owens makes his role debut as Golaud, to the United States for performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Owens can also be seen in performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Muti in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Mr. Owens began his 2013-2014 season in Berlin, performing in Bach's St. Matthew Passion with the Berliner Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. After mentoring the next generation of opera stars at the American Singers' Opera Project at the Kennedy Center with friend and collaborator Renée Fleming, Mr. Owens appeared as Sarastro in Mozart's The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera. He made his role debut as Vodnik in Rusalka at Lyric Opera of Chicago at the start of 2014. In the spring, Mr. Owens joined what director Peter Sellars called his "dream cast" of Handel’s Hercules with the Canadian Opera Company as the title role alongside Alice Coote, David Daniels, and Richard Croft.  2013-2014 also saw a duo recital with soprano Susanna Phillips presented by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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 his San Francisco Opera debut in Otello conducted by Donald Runnicles; his Royal Opera, Covent Garden, debut in Norma; 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.

(As of November 20, 2014)

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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