As a kid, Eric Owens studied oboe and thought he might make a career of it. “Then I saw people who were tons better than me going out for jobs with orchestras and not getting them,” he says. But that didn’t leave the Philadelphia native opting for a Wharton MBA. “Oddly enough,” he says, chuckling, “I saw career potential in opera.”
And how. Owens’ chops have taken him from the Houston Grand Opera to Covent Garden, singing everything from Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faust to Oroveso in Norma. He’s mastered the baroque and earned praise when he tackled the title role in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel. Next month, the bass-baritone takes the stage as Wotan, king of the gods, when Lyric Opera presents Wagner’s Das Rheingold.
The opera—the first of the four works that comprise the composer’s epic Ring cycle—displays the mighty behaving badly. “When you think about these gods, you’d be hard-pressed to find a time where one of them did anything that isn’t self-serving,” notes Owens. “The Ring is like an episode of Seinfeld on acid.”
Although ever on the go, Owens has put down roots in Chicago, where Lyric has kept him busy with appearances in Doctor Atomic, Rusalka and Hercules. And while confident in all sorts of roles, Owens admits that Verdi is his happy place. “Whenever I have to sing Verdi, everything automatically clicks,” Owens says. “So when I go into other music and find myself not singing well, I think, ‘Well, sing it like you’d sing Verdi.’” Oct. 1-22, times vary, tickets $17-$299, 20 N. Wacker Drive, 312.827.5600
Blues music, time at home after being on the road for months, crossword puzzles
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