Just in: Chicago loses its Wotan

Just in: Chicago loses its Wotan


norman lebrecht

March 02, 2020

The American bass-baritone Eric Owens has withdrawn from Lyric’s Ring cycles in April and May ‘in order to undergo treatment for ongoing health issues’.

This is a major blow for the company, and we wish him well.

His replacements will be Brian Mulligan in Das Rheingold and Alan Held in Die Walküre and Siegfried.

‘I am deeply grateful to Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir David Pountney, and all my Lyric colleagues for their support at this difficult time,’ said Owens. ‘I am also thankful for the enthusiasm and warmth Lyric’s audiences have shown me over the years that I have lived and worked in Chicago. My heartfelt thanks to everyone for understanding, and my best wishes for the success of Lyric’s amazing Ring.’

Eric Owens was recently an epochal Porgy at the Met.


  • PClarke says:

    Poor Eric. Mental Health issues are tough and it’s good he’s taking time out to sort himself out. What a blow to Lyric. Such a fine singer, who I have enjoyed here much over the years.

    • Marc says:

      Nothing in his statement indicates this is mental health. Why would you assume that??

    • norman lebrecht says:

      There is nothing in the official statement to suggest that this is the case.

      • Hans van der Zanden says:

        Google mentions several Eric Owens’, one of them ‘specialised in working with individuals who are surviving traumatic events, people who engage in self-injurious behaviors, and issues related to grief and loss’. PClarke may have mixed things up……

  • Brettermeier says:

    Weiche, Wotan, weiche!
    Flieh’ des Ringes Fluch!

  • Jane says:

    I do hope he is soon well again.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Eric Owens sang in Haitink’s end- of-season Beeethoven Ninth some years ago with the Chicago Symphony. I noticed then inconsistent vocal production, as though he sang with several “voices”. He was a good Alberich, and the only one to go from that role to Wotan that I can think of. He is certainly not the only bass-baritone to have trouble with Wotan’s role

    Brettenmeier’s post is a classic. æWeiche, Wotan, weiche” indeed. I’m sure we all wish Eric Owens the best.

    Hans Hotter, the best Wotan and greatest thing I’ve seen on any stage, would work his way around to Erda in performances and just before she sang, whisper “How do you like your eggs, Erda?”, to which she had to answer, “Weiche, Wotan, weiche”, the German for either scrambled or poached, I forget which. “Verlorene Eier” . or “lost eggs” is another dish.

    Bryn Terfel, another over-parted Wotan, was said one English audience-member to look like a sheep dog in the role.

    • Brettermeier says:

      ““Weiche, Wotan, weiche”, the German for either scrambled or poached, I forget which.”

      It’s neither. The joke aims at “soft[-boiled]” (weich[gekocht]).

      He could’ve also asked: “Remind me again, where do I have to jump off the train?” In that context, it could be translated to “Railroad switch, Wotan, begone!”

  • Mark says:

    He was outstanding in the Met Ring some years ago (when the present production premiered). Speedy recovery !

    • M. Arnold says:

      Right, Mark. I thought he was an extraordinary Alberich when I saw him in the Met’s video game Ring.Not enough bite in the voice to please everyone but beautifully and effectively sung, especially the descent into Nibelheim.

      • Marshall says:

        Nothing against him, and I hope he is well, but I have not been that impressed with the voice. Singing Porgy is one thing, singing Wagner is another. I saw his Hagan last Spring at the Met, and found him adequate, OK, but nothing more. At the time I read that he was going to do Wotan in Chicago, and didn’t think he had the voice or presence. or acting skills for such a difficult and complex role-maybe those factors are part of what is going on?

        • Rhinemaiden says:

          Absolutely not. He sang an absolutely outstanding Wotan in a semi-staged production of “Das Rheingold” with the New York Philharmonic in 2017. I watched the dress rehearsal and all three performances. Everything was there: a great technique, an amazing voice, musicianship, artistry and a very good understanding and use of the text. I honestly cannot understand why he hasn’t been singing Wotan all over Europe. If I was to make any bets regarding this withdrawal I would say that he probably had to undergo some sort of spinal treatment or even surgery. Although he is still young he has a visible spine problem and doesn’t walk very well. Anyway, I wish him the speediest of recoveries!

  • lori says:

    We are very disapponted but we wish Mr Owens well and hope his health improves very rapidly!

  • Loosing it says:

    Eric Owens for Wotan? For Wotan!! For Germanic Wotan.

    Hello! That’s like the Rammstein video titled “Deutschland” for Germany.

  • Dave T says:

    Speedy recovery, Mr. Owens.

  • frank says:

    Sad that Chicago Lyric Opera was unable to engage a first rate replacement for Owens. Their management must have been aware that Owens has been having vocal problems for some time so this certainly did not come as a surprise to them. Will Goerke be the next to exit this production?

    • tristan says:

      that’s the way they cast nowadays, both inadequate for their roles. Owen was a good Alberich but no way he can sing Wotan nor is Goerke right for Brunhilde, it’s a tour de force to hear her struggling with this role.
      She just rightly cancelled Bayreuth though it’s easier to sing there than at the MET monster