The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess opens tonight at SF Opera. It used to be dismissed, if you will, as a musical, but has now moved up to be considered one of the best American operas ever. Not that it's too crowded a category yet. In the role of Porgy, we have Eric Owens, a bass-baritone who is carving a name for himself with compelling performances in exciting productions, new and old. Also, a charmer.

When we usually chat with a soprano, we can't tell via their speaking voice they have a striking singing voice. Not so with Owens, who has a deep booming voice that had us wanting to plug a subwoofer to our speakerphone, even though he only chatted in a relaxed and easy manner. Bass singers are usually the evil schemers on stage, but this Philly-born star sounds totally fun and mellow. It's his first time singing Porgy, so we asked, how about that?

Eric Owens This role is actually quite a challenge for me, it's something that even four or five years ago I probably could not sing because of its range, it's got quite a wide range. I'm happy to make my debut in this role with the SF Opera company. It's a company that's dear to my heart, I've done many roles here. I'm happy to be working with the director Francesca Zambello in this production. I've known her for a long time but it's the first time I'm getting a chance to work with her. She's someone who is very passionate about this opera, so I'm glad I'm getting my feet wet with her.