Since winning the inaugural Seattle Opera International Wagner competition in 2006, James Rutherford has become renowned for his interpretations of German romantic opera.
With “his rich and booming voice and nuanced acting” (Bachtrack), his celebrated Wagner roles have taken him to the world’s leading operatic stages. He has performed Hans Sachs Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for houses including the Bayreuth Festival, 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.
James continues to sing his core repertoire in the 23/24 season, where his roles include Der Holländer Der Fliegender Holländer and Faninal Der Rosenkavalier for Deutsche Oper am Rhein; Wotan Das Rheingold in his debut with Calgary Opera, and Wotan Die Walküre with the Hangzhou Philharmonic/Markus Stenz. He adds the role of Rocco Fidelio to his repertoire in a tour with the Los Angeles Philharmonic/Dudamel.Read more
His recent operatic roles have included Der Holländer Der Fliegender Holländer for Oper Leipzig, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, and Oper Köln; Giorgio Germont La Traviata for Oper Graz; Hans Sachs Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for Oper Leipzig and Lawrence The Wreckers for the Glyndebourne Festival. Recent highlights on the concert stage have included a semi-staged performance of The Wreckers at the BBC Proms, and St John Passion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Stephen Layton.
Described as “the role of a lifetime” (Das Opernmagazin), the part of Wotan has been fundamental to James’ career. He first performed the role to much critical acclaim at Oper Frankfurt, conducted by Sebastian Weigle in 2016. 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/Heras-Casado. He recorded 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. His interpretation of the cycle is recorded with the Duisburg Philharmonic/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.
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.”