Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ebony.com: 'Eric Owens Interview By Sergio Mims'; 'It’s like Shakespeare. It’s so timeless'

[Sergio Mims (left) with Eric Owens at Chicago Lyric Opera on Friday, March 4, 2011]

Sergio Mims sends us this interview with bass-baritone Eric Owens:

By Sergio Mims
“Highly (and universally) acclaimed bass-baritone Eric Owens is, without question, one of the most-talked about and in-demand opera singers today. With major roles in a new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Verdi’s Aida, Le Grand Macabre with the New York Philharmonic and, especially, Doctor Atomic, Owens’ powerful and majestic voice is thrilling audiences in opera houses and concert halls all over the world. We recently had a chance to speak with Owens about his career and music just before he was to make his debut in Handel’s Hercules, starring in a new production by the always-thought-provoking and controversial stage director Peter Sellars at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

EBONY: In this production of Hercules, the director has broken with tradition and made the title character a returning Iraq War veteran trying to readjust to his wife and his life after the war. There are even strong references to Abu Ghraib in it. What’s it like to work with Sellars?

OWENS: Peter is so intense. I mean, he brings such so emotional depth and joy to every project he’s involved in, along with vast knowledge. And you never feel that you’re just skimming along on the surface. The rehearsals were very intense. There were times when it would just get under my skin so much—in a good way—that I just couldn’t shake off what we had done that day. It just gets so emotional. One day, I think I just cried afterwards [laughs]—my whole evening was ruined!

EBONY: I saw a videocast with Sellars and some real Iraq war veterans. It was the first time most of them had ever seen an opera, and all of them were incredibly moved by it. Which brings up the point that too many people still look at opera as some dry, dusty, antiquated thing. Many operas deal with issues that are just as relevant today as they were when they were written.

OWENS: Absolutely! It’s like Shakespeare. It’s so timeless. These [characters] and their emotions and their conflicts—these topics are just as relevant today, and Peter always tries to make a piece have more of an immediacy and more of a relevance in people’s lives than becoming just a museum piece in a glass case. It’s vibrant and alive.

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