Canadian bass Phillip Ens made his Pacific Opera Victoria debut as Figaro in our 1990 production of The Marriage of Figaro. He now returns as Fiesco in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra – a role he performed with the Canadian Opera Company in 2009.
Mr. Ens has developed an international career performing with major orchestras and opera companies throughout Europe and North America.
He made his operatic debut in 1985 with the Manitoba Opera, followed by appearances with the opera companies of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Montreal, and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in such roles as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Frère Laurence in Roméo et Juliette. He made his Canadian Opera Company debut in 1991 as Don Fernando in Fidelio, followed by his debut in the United States with the Philadelphia Orchestra as Colline in La bohème and by appearances as Sparafucile with the opera companies of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Denver and as Ramfis in Aïda in Austin.
From 1993 to 1997, Mr. Ens was principal bass with the Staatsoper Stuttgart, performing numerous roles including Sarastro, Banquo (Macbeth), Pimen (Boris Godunov), and Fafner and Hunding in their new production of the Ring cycle.
Other European credits during this period include the role of Ramfis in Robert Wilson’s new production of Aïda with La Monnaie in Brussels, Sarastro with Staatsoper Hamburg and Staatsoper Berlin, Colline at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Padre Guardiano (La forza del destino) for the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Claggart (Billy Budd) for the Welsh National Opera, and Hunding with Teatro Real de Madrid. Numerous orchestral credits include appearances with the BBC Proms series and the Festivals of Salzburg and Edinburgh.
Mr. Ens made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2000 as Hunding in Die Walküre under the baton of James Levine, returning for two new productions as Commendatore (Don Giovanni) and Wurm (Luisa Miller), as well as Tiresias in Oedipus Rex , and Jorg in Stiffelio. Other credits include the Paris Bastille, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. At San Francisco Opera he sang Claggart, a role he also performed at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Houston Grand Opera, and in Glyndebourne’s first ever production of Billy Budd, the DVD production of which received a Grammy Award nomination as best opera recording of 2012.
Recent and upcoming engagements include Sarastro with Vancouver Opera, Fafner with the Canadian Opera Company and Bayerische Staatsoper, München; Ramfis in Aïda at Opéra de Montréal and Manitoba Opera; and King Mark in Tristan und Isolde at Musiktheater im Revier, Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
Ens, with his seemingly bottomless bass, is chilling as his haughty adversary.
Christopher Hoile, Eye Weekly, review of Canadian Opera Company's Simon Boccanegra, 2009
Phillip Ens portrays Claggart with such depth and complexity that Crozier’s description of the Master-at-Arms as “a boring, black-masked villain” now seems preposterous.
Mark Valencia, Classical Source, Review of Billy Budd DVD, Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Phillip Ens had an inspired evening as Claggart, his dark, resonant bass permeating every corner of the stage, and of the house...it was a stupendous sing, oozing malevolence, stoking up the tension bar after bar to the mournful melodic undertones of first the saxophone and then the trombone. Elder's reading of this passage of the score, and Ens' performance of it, brought home forcibly just how classical Britten could be at times, the parallels with Iago's Credo in Verdi's Otello becoming vividly apparent...Ens ... can deliver absolutely everything that the role demands. This was a stand-out performance.
Mike Reynolds, Musicalcriticism.com, review of Glyndebourne Festival's Billy Budd