Since winning the inaugural Seattle Opera International Wagner competition in 2006, James Rutherford has become renowned for his interpretations of German romantic opera.
His career highlights have included Hans Sachs Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for the Bayreuth Festival (2010, 2011), Wiener Staatsoper, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Oper Köln, San Francisco Opera, Budapest Wagner Festival and Glyndebourne Festival; Wolfram Tannhäuser for San Francisco Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin; the title role in Der Fliegende Holländer for the Budapest Wagner Festival, Oper Frankfurt and Oper Stuttgart as well as Kurwenal Tristan und Isolde for Washington National Opera.
This season James sings Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for Oper Leipzig; the title role in Der Fliegende Holländer for Oper Leipzig, Deutsche Oper am Rhein and Oper Köln, and Forester in The Cunning Little Vixen for Opera North.Read more
In 2016 James added Wotan to his repertoire performing the complete Ring cycle at Oper Frankfurt, conducted by Sebastian Weigle. Since then he has performed Das Rheingold and Die Walküre at the Budapest Wagner Festival (A. Fischer), Das Rheingold for Hamburgische Staatsoper (Nagano), Die Walküre at Tanglewood (Nelsons) and Teatro Real, Madrid (Heras-Casado), as well as a concert and recording of Die Walküre with the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Rattle). With Deutsche Oper am Rhein, he has performed all three roles in a new production of the Ring. In subsequent concert performances of the cycle, his interpretation of the two Wotans and the Wanderer was recorded for CD with the Duisburg Philharmonic and Axel Kober.
His Strauss roles include Jochanaan Salome at the Wiener Staatsoper, Berlin Staatsoper and Opéra National de Montpellier; Mandryka Arabella with the Dutch National Opera, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Liceu, Barcelona and Oper Frankfurt; Orestes Elektra for Hamburgische Staatsoper, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Faninal Der Rosenkavalier for Oper Frankfurt. Recently, he performed the role of Peter Hänsel und Gretel in a new production at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
His recordings on the BIS label include a CD of early 20th Century English songs; Butterworth orchestral songs with BBC NOW; Wagner arias with Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic and Schubert Schwanengesang with the pianist Eugene Asti. Their critically acclaimed recording of Schubert Winterreise was released in 2021.
“Above all, James Rutherford shone as Hans Sachs. It is now ten years since he undertook the role at the Bayreuth Festival and at this performance he surpassed himself in the Third Act. He sang a riveting monologue with his powerful, robust baritone voice and was particularly moving at the moment of giving Eva over to Walther. Rutherford was especially masterful and relaxed in the role, identifying closely with it and always attentive to detail. One must also mention his excellent diction and understanding of the role and, after some initial tentativeness, he gave a sophisticated, deeply affecting portrayal.”
“It is this direction that indicates the solid and structured approach of James Rutherford. His homogeneous, legato, silky tone, reminds us of hymns and popular dances, sung in a very natural dynamic with expansive sound. This Winterreise takes us under the ice, in these secret places where, beyond despair, loneliness, the petrification of the cold, the multiple and tiny shivers of life sparkle. Gorgeous. Sound: 10 Record: 10 Repertory: 10 Interpretation: 10″
“James Rutherford’s Wotan sounded finer, more accomplished and more nuanced than ever. He has already sang this role at some large German houses and now seems to have completely embodied and perfected it. He has admirably worked on the role interpretation and was able to convincingly portray every last ounce of Wotan’s inner turmoil. As an angry, furious god of war and immediately afterwards as a loving father, he knew how to utter every word in the most suitable vocal timbre. Rutherford has found the role of a lifetime with Wotan.”