The Opera Standees Association held a small reception for Eric Owens yesterday evening in San Francisco. Owens is in the midst of having a great success in Porgy and Bess at San Francisco Opera, and the last performance is tomorrow. Despite this, and his recent Met debut, he remains refreshingly humble.
Eric discussed the excitement of live performance, how each night in a particular run will be different, and how having 3,000 people in the audience is part of it. He played Robert Levin's Curtis Commencement speech to us, which champions new music. We pontificated on which new operas might make it to the standard rep: Ainadamar, Dead Man Walking, and Little Women. A lively conversation about how it is more difficult to do a contemporary opera the second time, rather than the premiere, ensued.
We also got to hear about how Eric Owens became a singer, how he played oboe professionally but ended up at Temple University for voice as an undergraduate, and how he got into the Curtis Institute for Music for grad school after a year studying with Armen Boyajian. It is clear he is both tenacious and persistent. It was also particularly interesting to hear what music Owens loves, as he was a fan of opera before he ever thought he would be a singer himself. Charmingly enough, he did standing room at the Met as a teenager, first Tosca, then Götterdämmerung and Der Rosenkavalier.