James Bowman has been one of the world’s leading counter tenors for over forty years; his career spans opera, oratorio, contemporary music and solo recitals. He began singing as a chorister at Ely Cathedral and later entered New College, Oxford with a choral scholarship. After leaving Oxford, he joined the choir of Westminster Abbey. As the result of an audition, he was invited by Benjamin Britten to sing at the opening concert of the new Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in March 1967, and this marked his London debut.
He was soon in demand on both the opera stage and the concert platform, appearing at the Aldeburgh Festival and Sadlers Wells in 1967 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), at Glyndebourne in 1970 (La Calisto), the English National Opera in 1971 (Semele) and the Royal Opera in 1977 (Taverner).
Among his numerous opera engagements abroad, mention should be made of Paris (L’Opéra, L’Opéra Comique, Théâtre du Châtelet, Le Théâtre des Champs Elysées), La Scala, Milan; La Fenice, Venice; and the Festival of Aix-en-Provence. In Australia he has appeared at the Sydney and Melbourne Opera houses and in the USA at Dallas, Wolftrap, San Francisco and Santa Fe.
His concert career is equally wide-ranging. In Europe he is well known as a recitalist, with a large following. He has sung at every major festival in France and in 1992 the French government honoured him with admission to ‘L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’. In the same year he was awarded the Medal of Honour of the City of Paris.
James Bowman has made over 150 recordings with all the major record labels, under such directors as Britten, Harnoncourt, Mackerras, Leppard, Hogwood, Bruggen and Pinnock. He has recorded Messiah four times, under Willcocks, Koopman, Dorati and Parrott. Many of his recordings have been with The King’s Consort for Hyperion, recording all the Purcell odes, church music and solo songs, as well as various solo discs of music by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Hasse, Domenico Scarlatti and Dowland.
James Bowman has given the world premiere of many important contemporary compositions, including works by Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, Robin Holloway, Geoffrey Burgon, Michael Nyman, Alan Ridout and Tarik O’Regan. In May 1996 he received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and was made CBE in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He is also an Honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford and in October 2000 became a Gentleman of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace.