James Bowman is widely acclaimed as of one of the twentieth century’s greatest singers, and has taken the countertenor voice to heights of popularity undreamed of a generation ago. He is one of the pillars of the historically informed early music revival, and has made hundreds of recordings of the music of Monteverdi, Purcell, Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, and numerous other early composers, which are heard on radio stations every day throughout the world. His career started as a boy chorister at Ely Cathedral, and later, as a countertenor, as an Academic Clerk at New College Oxford, where he read history. He also sang in the Choir of Christ Church.
His career was launched when, in 1967, he was chosen by Benjamin Britten to sing the part of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and was asked to perform at the opening of the new Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank. Since that time James has been greatly in demand internationally as an opera singer. He has made the role of Oberon more or less his own (and Britten wrote later parts for him, both in The Journey of the Magi and his last opera Death in Venice), and has appeared at almost every major opera house, including Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, La Scala Milan, Amsterdam, Vienna, Strasbourg, Verona, Aix-en-Provence, Paris, Sydney, Santa Fe, Dallas and San Francisco.
James has made whole sequences of recordings (many of them now of classic status) with David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London, Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, and Robert King and The King’s Consort. And he has greatly enlarged the twentieth century repertoire for the counter-tenor voice, with new works from Richard Rodney Bennett, Gordon Crosse, Geoffrey Burgon, Alan Ridout, John Sanders and Peter Hope. He was appointed CBE in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.