London-born, James read French and Russian at Exeter then qualified as a Management Accountant working at British Airways. He began his operatic training in Milan, before attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama whilst making early professional appearances as Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Achillas in Julius Caesar, Argante in Rinaldo, Proteo/Marte in Il Parnasso in Festa, Marco in Gianni Schicchi at St. John’s Smith Square, and Il Conte in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Festival Hall.
Going on to study at the National Opera Studio, he came to the attention of a wider public as Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore and his critically-acclaimed Figaro in Il Barbiere de Siviglia, both for Grange Park Rising Stars. This led to engagements for Grange Park Opera as Bello in La Fanciulla del West, Hajny/Lovec in Rusalka and the title role Eugene Onegin at Nevill Holt, Grange Park and Cadogan Hall. He made his debut for Opera North in the title role of Don Giovanni and has since returned to Opera North as the Count in The Marriage of Figaro, Cascada in The Merry Widow and Pastore/Spirito in Orfeo.
His debut for English National Opera was as Morales in Carmen. He created the role of Alasdair in the Sky Arts Award-winning Scottish Opera/Music Theatre Wales joint production of the world premiere of Ghost Patrol by Stuart MacRae, in Glasgow, at the Edinburgh Festival, the Linbury Studio - ROH and on national tour. He reprised various roles at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), Gran Teatre de Liceu (Barcelona) and at the Staatenhaus for Oper Köln (2019) in revivals of the acclaimed run of Kurt Weil's Street Scene for The Opera Group, originally at the Young Vic, the Theater an der Wien (Vienna), and on national tour in the UK and for Radio 3 Broadcast with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Further highlights have included Adolf in The Jacobin by Dvorak for Buxton Opera Festival and the roles of Peacock, Mouse, Leftovers and God in the world premiere of How the Whale Became by Julian Philips at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Also, Dandini in La Cenerentola under Carlo Rizzi for Welsh National Opera and the creation of the central baritone role in the world première of The Ground beneath her Feet with the Hallé, conducted by Mark Elder at the Manchester International Festival. He has performed the title role in Il Barbiere di Siviglia for Zomer Opera in Belgium and also for Opéra de Baugé, for whom he has sung Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Marcello (La Bohème) and Nardo (La Finta Giardiniera). In 2009 and 2011 he sang Rolf Gruber in The Sound of Music at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. For English Touring Opera he has sung roles in The Cunning Little Vixen, La Traviata and Don Giovanni, while significant appearances elsewhere include Pelléas, Tarquinius, Hamlet, Guglielmo and Falke, the latter for Castleward Opera in Ireland and recently at the Arcola Theatre (Grimeborn Festival) in London. He has understudied roles on several occasions at the Royal Opera House, London.
Having toured Oliver Mears' production of The Elixir of Love with Northern Ireland Opera and Opera Theatre Company, he performed the third revival of this production for Nevill Holt Opera and at St Jude's in Hampstead, prior to which he sang Don Alfonso in Così fan Tutte for Scottish Opera.
His association with London-based Opera Vera began with performances of the title role in Don Giovanni. He has subsequently returned to co-direct productions of Le Nozze di Figaro (as well as singing the role of Count Almaviva) and Cosí fan Tutte. His debut directing project prior to that included a week's workshops with young singers on Eugene Onegin for the Artstrust Foundation, and this year he will direct and star in Don Pasquale as Dr. Malatesta in Wales. Further exciting departures to his operatic career include featuring in the Hollywood blockbluster Mission Impossible 5, as well as theatre roles such as First Priest in T.S Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral and Scrooge's nephew in A Christmas Carol.
An experienced concert artist, oratorio performances have included Mozart’s Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall, Gounod's Messe de Sainte Cécile at the Cadogan Hall, Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Arundel Cathedral and gala concerts at venues such as the Symphony Hall in Birmingham and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for Raymond Gubbay. His European concert engagements have included Gounod's Messe Solennelle at the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris, Rossini’s Messe in Milan and Savona with the Complesso Cameristico Internazionale and in London with the Philharmonia Chorus, Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem at the Chiesa San Carlo in Milan and a televised concert of Zarzuela in Spain. Most recently he sang the cantata Voices of Exile by Richard Blackford with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus.
Much in demand as a recitalist, James’ concert appearances have included the world premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s settings of Three Andrew Motion Songs at King’s Place in London accompanied by Iain Burnside, three recital programmes at the Crush Room, Royal Opera House with Mark Packwood, and he recently devised and performed a recital entitled "Love's Songlist" with pianist Gareth Owen at the Forge Arts and Music Venue in Camden. Having put together a visually-illustrated presentation of Schubert's Winterreise with artistic director Alexander Anderson-Hall, he has performed this cycle with pianist and conductor James Southall for the Buxton Festival and at the Glossop Music Festival. Along similar lines, he recently sang Schumann's Dichterliebe and Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel with pianist Federici Laetitia.
Together with tenor Alexander Anderson-Hall, he regularly performs a selection of eclectic recital programmes which they have devised under the name of Opera Galleria. An additional development to these programmes involves a blend of folk and classical repertoire which they perform under the name Classifolk.
Recordings include Songs of the Phoenix, a programme of Italian arias, songs and duets for baritone and tenor recorded at Champs Hill, Surrey, with Alexander Anderson-Hall. Also settings of English songs by Harold Craxton.