Eric Owens and Ana María Martínez
Eric Owens and Ana María Martínez Credit: Todd Rosenberg

Crawling out of a misty bog, his hair like Don King’s on a bad day, bass-baritone Eric Owens stole the show as goblin king Vodnik in Dvořák’s Rusalka at Lyric Opera this spring. He was comically randy one minute, tragically bereft the next—never mind his clown-size three-toed feet. These days opera singers are asked to perform in all sorts of odd positions (before long I expect to see an aria sung in downward-facing dog), but Owens projected majesty even while “air swimming” across the stage floor. His confidence and dramatic range bode well for his upcoming Lyric engagements: he’ll be the male lead in next year’s Porgy and Bess and play Wotan (his debut in the role) in the new Ring cycle slated for 2016-’17. Owens is a regular on the local recital scene too; he appeared with the Grant Park Orchestra in Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette earlier this month and performed Schubert lieder at Symphony Center in May. In February he and soprano Ana María Martínez, his Rusalka costar, were named community ambassadors for Lyric, and during school visits they buck students’ preconceived notions about opera with their utter lack of stuffiness and hauteur. Owens was serious about the oboe when he was younger, but he’s said that if he had to choose a new career, he’d try stand-up. Has he come to the right city or what?