Over the past few years Eric Owens has garnered praise for his heartbreaking and commanding work on stage. One only has to look at his ground-breaking portrayal of Alberich in Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” at the Metropolitan Opera to see the depth and emotional range he gives to each one of his roles. This week the bass is adding another important role to his Metropolitan Opera repertoire – the Water Sprite in Dvorak’s “Rusalka.”
At times productions can look past this role as it does not have the showiness of roles like Jezibaba or the importance of the leads, the prince and Rusalka. However, the Water Sprite has numerous crucial parts in the opera including a lyrical aria where the character expresses his love and his pain for Rusalka.
Considering the care and dedication he gives to every role he takes on, audiences should expect an unforgettable take on the character. We are already getting hints of it based on early footage released by the Met.
Owens first sang the Water Sprite at the Lyric Opera of Chicago where critics stated that his “deep and warm bass-baritone was a pleasure throughout the evening as Vodnik, with Owens singing with especially tender sensitivity in Act 2.”
The American bass had his big Metropolitan Opera breakout in 2010 when he sang Alberich in Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” and later performed the rest of the Ring Cycle. However, he first made his debut in 2008 in John Adam’s “Doctor Atomic.” Owens has dominated a diverse range of repertoire from the Bel Canto works to Mozart to the dramatic to modern music. At the Met, this has been present as he has sung Mozart, Strauss and most recently Saairaho in “L’Amoir d’Loin.” Around the world he has done Fillippo in Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” Capellio in Bellini’s “I Capuleti e Montecchi” and Porgy in Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”
Owens is the recipient of the 2003 Marian Anderson Award and the First prize in the Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition. He is also a two-time Grammy winner for his recordings of “Doctor Atomic” and “The Ring Cycle.” Both recordings are part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series.
For those who have not heard Owens’ voice and want to get familiar with it should look to his Alberich interpretation from the Met, which is available on DVD. There is also the “Doctor Atomic” recording from his Met debut. The San Francisco Opera also released a performance of “Capuleti e Montecchi” featuring Owens as Cappellio. The bass is also featured on Christine Brewer’s “Scenes from Strauss operas.”
Finally for those not interested in watching DVDs or listening to CDs, the Met has the option of streaming his performance as Orest in Strauss’ “Elecktra.”