James Rutherford


Since winning the inaugural Seattle Opera International Wagner competition in 2006, James Rutherford has become renowned for his interpretations of German romantic opera. He has sung Hans Sachs (“Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg”) for the Bayreuth Festival (2010, 2011), Wiener Staatsoper, Hamburg Staatsoper, Cologne Opera, San Francisco Opera, Budapest Wagner Festival and Glyndebourne Festival; Wolfram (“Tannhäuser”) for San Francisco Opera; Kurwenal (“Tristan und Isolde”) for Washington National Opera; the title role in “Der Fliegende Holländer” for the Budapest Wagner Festival as well as Amfortas (“Parsifal”) and Holländer with the CBSO and Andris Nelsons.

His Strauss roles include Jochanaan (“Salome”) at the Wiener Staatsoper, Berlin Staatsoper and Opéra National de Montpellier; Mandryka (“Arabella”) with the Dutch National Opera, Hamburg Staatsoper and Liceu, Barcelona; Orestes (“Elektra”) for Hamburg Staatsoper and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Faninal (“Der Rosenkavalier”) for Frankfurt Opera. Other appearances include the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera, Scottish Opera and Opera North.

In 2009 he began a major association with the Graz Opera, singing his first Hans Sachs and returning for Barak (“Die Frau ohne Schatten”), Germont (“La Traviata”), Iago (“Otello”), Orestes (“Elektra”), Scarpia (“Tosca”) and the title roles in “Falstaff” and “Guillaume Tell”.  Following a guest contract as Lysiart in a new production of “Euryanthe” in 2015, James began a long-term contract with the Frankfurt Opera. Highlights of his first season include a new production of “Der Fliegende Holländer” and his first Wotan/Wanderer in complete Ring cycles. 

Plans for 2016/17 include Ford (“Falstaff”) and Mandryka at Frankfurt Opera and debuts at Deutsche Oper, Berlin as Wolfram and Stuttgart Opera as Holländer.

His recordings on the BIS label include a CD of early 20th Century English songs; Wagner arias with Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic and most recently Schubert “Schwanengesang” with the pianist Eugene Asti. 

This is for information only. For a full and up to date biography please contact Imogen Lewis Holland

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News & Features



Peter Grimes: Balstrode*
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Bottom

Tosca: Scarpia

Guillaume Tell: Tell

Salome: Jokanaan
Elektra: Orestes
Die Frau ohne Schatten: Barak
Arabella: Mandryka
Der Rosenkavalier: Faninal

The Rake's Progress: Nick Shadow

La Traviata: Germont Pere
Otello: Iago
Falstaff: Falstaff
Falstaff: Ford*
Macbeth: Macbeth*
Simon Boccanegra: Simon Boccanegra*. 

Rienzi: Orsini
Der fliegende Holländer: Holländer
Tannhäuser: Wolfram
Lohengrin: Herald
Tristan und Isolde: Kurwenal
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Hans Sachs
Das Rheingold: Wotan
Die Walküre: Wotan
Siegfried: Wanderer
Götterdämmerung: Gunther
Parsifal: Amfortas

Euryanthe: Lysiart

* roles in preparation


Christmas Oratorio
Mass in B minor
St. Matthew Passion
St. John Passion
Various Cantatas


Mass in C
Missa Solemnis
Symphony no.9

La Damnation de Faust

Ein Deutsches Requiem
Liebeslieder Waltzes Op 52

War Requiem

Das Lied von der Glocke

A shropshire Lad


Te Deum

Mass of Life
Sea Drift

Te Deum

Sweet Thames run softly

Dream of Gerontius
The Kingdom
Starlight Express
The Apostles
The Kingdom
Light of Life
Coronation Ode


Burns Sequence

Messe Solennelle

Dixit Dominus
Chandos Anthem No.9
Triumph of Time and Turth
L'Allegro e il Penseroso
Apollo e Dafne

The Seasons
Maria Theresa Mass
Missa Cellenis
Stabat Mater

Christmas Day

Das Knaben Wunderhorn
Symphony No. 8*

Psalm 115

Vespers 1610

Mass in C minor
Coronation Mass
Solemn Vespers
Mass in F

Songs and Dances of Death


Messa di Gloria

Te Deum
Come ye Sons of Art
Welcome all the Pleasures

Petite Messe Solenelle
Stabat Mater

Mass in G
Mass in E flat
Psalm 92
Tantum Ergo in E flat


Songs of the Fleet

Oedipus Rex

Don Quichotte

Negro Spirituals
A Child of our Time

Missa Scala Aretina

Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Mass in G minor
Sancta Civitas
Sea Symphony
Serenade to Music
Songs of Travel
Five Mystical Songs


Belshazzar's Feast

Die Siebe Todsunden

Maeterlinck Lieder
Lyrische Symphonie*

*In preparation

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Click here for a link to Opernwelt online magazine interview Wagner tut gut, December 2010
and here for a link to the published version as a pdf file

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The Ring Cycle (2016)

Frankfurt Opera

"James Rutherford’s Wotan was in his element, with his rich and booming voice and nuanced acting impressively encompassing the range of the character’s dilemma to create a complete character."

Bachtrack/Ako Imamura
"Wenn die Frankfurter Wiederaufnahme nichtsdestotrotz zum lustvollen Erlebnis wird, ist dies den stimmlich wie schauspielerisch herausragenden Leistungen einiger Sänger zu verdanken. So liefern James Rutherford als Wotan mit warm getöntem Bariton..."

Bachtrack/Miriam Zeh
"Fricka und Wotan (James Rutherford) geben ein göttliches Paar."

Marion Schwarzmann/Giessener Allgemeine Zeitung

CD: Schwanengesang (March 2016)

BIS Records

"James Rutherford besitzt einen ebenmäßigen, eleganten Bariton. Interpretatorisch orientiert er sich hier nicht an Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, der meinte, mit jeder gesungenen Note den Text erklären zu müssen."

"James Rutherford verleiht seiner Stimme bei jedem Lied eine  eigene Klangfarbe.  Die Stimme klingt hier ausgeglichen, geradezu in sich ruhend. Einer der schönsten Momente auf dieser CD erlebt man gleich im ersten Lied, wo der Sänger kunstvoll ins Piano geht. Ebenso wie er den Titel Nr. 5 gestaltet, habe ich dieses Lied “Aufenthalt”  vom Ausdruck her so noch nie zuvor gehört. Man hält förmlich den Atem an."

Sven Godenrath/Openratgeber blog
"His (James Rutherford's) baritone has almost everything for the Schubert selection on this disc: lightness at the top, warmth in the middle, velvety low notes, and an edge that ensures the words cut through. In dramatic songs he’s capable of quicksilver changes of timbre; in Kriegers Ahnung, for example, he moves from a low snarl early on to gentle, airborne high notes."
"Die Forelle.. is lovely, with Eugene Asti’s bubbling piano nudging the vocal lines along. An die Musik, sung and played with great intensity of feeling, closes a rewarding disc."

The Guardian/Erica Jeal
"Wie so oft, wenn zwei außerordentliche Künstler zusammentreffen, wie hier James Rutherford und sein Begleiter Eugene Asti, kommt dabei nicht nur Gutes heraus, sondern sogar das Bestmögliche."
"Dennoch ist seine wohl- und volltönende Stimme beweglich, schmiegsam, sie besitzt große Dimension und vermag sogar ein schönes, schwebendes Piano hervorzuzaubern. Der Vortrag zeugt von tiefem Eindringen in die Werke und hält sich dennoch von Tüftelei und Affektesse fern."
"Die Aussprache de Sängers ist überwiegend klar und deutlich, der Vortrag lebensvoll und tief berührend in den melancholischen, sehnsuchtsvollen Gesängen (Kriegers Ahnung, In der Ferne). Eugen Asti am Klavier ist nicht bloß Assistent, sondern mitlebender, mitfühlender Gefährte."

Klassik Heute/ Clemens Höslinger
"Two sets of Butterworth’s songs are also included, both sung with exemplary diction and compelling conviction by James Rutherford.
A fine release to commemorate not just one promising young life cut short, but a generation of millions."

The Times/Richard Morrison


Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (2015)

San Francisco Opera

“Notwithstanding the name of the opera, “Meistersinger’s” central role is Hans Sachs, a cobbler-poet who artfully and selflessly brings together the main romantic characters and is its moral compass.  Ethically grounded, Sachs is one of the most likable characters in all of opera, and one of its most demanding roles. Baritone James Rutherford shepherded the part masterfully with his muscular, rich voice that carried through the house, and sturdy build and blend of dramatic and comic prowess.”

James Ambroff-Tahan/SF Examiner
“On opening night, Rutherford's essentially lyric instrument sounded warm and expressive…this Sachs projected the right combination of the character's humanity, intelligence and longing.”

Georgia Rowe/Mercury News
“James Rutherford, taking over the extensive, key role of Hans Sachs from a singer who withdrew from the production, built the performance steadily, peaking when it required the most five hours into the evening”

SFExaminer/ Janos Gereben


Salome (2015)

The Lighthouse, Poole and Symphony Hall Birmingham with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

"It's rare to hear this score liberated from an orchestra pit, and in Poole's Lighthouse all the detail and colour came across directly. James Rutherford had booming resonance and authority as Jokanaan."

The Telegraph/John Allison
"James Rutherford the Jokanaan, wrapping his burnished tone around the prophet’s phrases and communicating meaning in a way that mostly defeated other singers."

Andrew Clements/The Guardian
"James Rutherford as Jochanaan was strongly authoritative and all zealous outrage, determined that the abominations of Herodias and the corrupt Judaea court be cast down and of course totally immune to Salome’s  increasing desperate blandishments."

Ian Lace/Seen and Heard Intl.


Symphony no.9 (2015)

Royal Festival Hall/Philharmonia Orchestra Season Opening Concert

In the final movement, Dohnányi’s interpretation was informed by clarity and vigour, the energetic orchestral playing now supported by spirited choral contributions from the Rodolfus Choir and Philharmonia Voices. The four soloists, bass James Rutherford, tenor Michael König, mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose and soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen, were uniformly excellent.

MusicOMH/Christian Hopkins
Beethoven’s writing made life notoriously difficult for the vocal soloists and choir... however soprano Charlotta Larsson, mezzo Ruxandra Donose, tenor Michael König and baritone James Rutherford formed an impressive quartet of soloists.

George Hall/The Guardian
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which followed after the interval was an irrepressible performance, demonstrating Dohnányi’s ability to energise his troops. The Rodolfus Choir and Philharmonia Voices could hardly have sounded more enthused. Nor could the soloists (soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen, tenor Michael König, mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose, and bass James Rutherford).

The FT/Hannah Nepil


Elektra (2015)

Hamburg State Opera

"James Rutherford made a splendid Orest, his robus and pleasingly rounded bass-baritone reflecting his growing status as a Wagnerian"

Hugo Shirley/ Opera Magazine May 2015

CD: James Rutherford Sings Wagner

BIS Records AB

Click on the following link to read review in German online publication, Pizzicato Remy Franck, Pizzicato, 8th April 2014
"he sings Wagner’s text with as much clarity as he does the notes. His rugged Dutchman will be welcome in the theatre, as will his Wotan, whose Farewell is accompanied with climactic grandeur by Litton’s players."
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 18 May 2014
"this disc ... acts as an admirable ‘sampler’ of the work of a singer whose assumption of the Wagnerian mantle is assured and highly idiomatic."
Paul Corfield Godrey, Music Web International
"Depuis longtemps nous n'avions entendu une voix capable de communiquer aussi simplement la vérité de personnages si éminemment complexes." Sylvain Fort / N°163 de Classica / June 2014
“The Norfolk-born bass-baritone’s voice, on this showing, is close to ideal - chocolate-dark and rich in tone, with a deceptive effortlessness and security that shows up many more famous exponents.”
BBC Music Magazine / Michael Scott Rohan / July 2014
"He (Rutherford) is the possessor of a voice that happily combines strength and warmth, in the mold of Terfel… Every rounded tone is securely produced; there’s real human emotion, delivered without edginess." Huntley Dent/Fanfare
"Rutherford's baritone, almost a bass-baritone, is dark, nutty brown in colour and broad in its phrasing...the seriousness of his Sachs, his warmth and generosity, come across impressively from his stage experience."

"...His Amfortas in Parisfal, has a wonderful, unforced dignity, and in Wotan's Farewell his is remarkably authoritative for one so young - noble, sensitive, no forcing and with no fear."
Richard Fairman/Gramophone Magazine Sept. 2014
"James Rutherford's timbre reminds me a bit of Thomas Stewart's, a blend of bass and baritone closer to the higher end...it's just right for the heroic Wagner roles.  He's at his best in the Amfortas final lament, 'Ja! Wehe', so moving that it's a real jolt when the scene is abruptly cut off at the end..."
American Record Guide November 2014

Wagner: Die Walküre Act III, 22 May 2013

Royal Festival Hall, London

"James Rutherford's Wotan was full and visceral of voice"

Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 23 May 2013
"Although the act requires seven other singers, it is a confrontation between Brünnhilde and her father Wotan, sung here by James Rutherford. There was cruelty in Rutherford’s voice, anguish and dismay in Bullock’s. 
Both sang with weighty authority"
Nick Kimberley, The Evening Standard, 23 May 2013
"To say that over time Rutherford should develop into a great Wotan would be true but slightly unfair, because from the moment that he stepped out from behind his lectern for ‘Leb’ wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!’, never to return for the rest of the act, he already felt like one. His performance of ‘Der Augen leuchtendes Paar’ was enough to bring tears to the eyes"
Sam Smith, Music OMH, 24 May 2013

CD Most Grand to Die


"Rutherford […] displays the warm and gentle approach that is needed most of the time and then he produces exquisite singing. With a full range of well-applied dynamics, he is able to employ his robust operatic voice as needed and also harness it gorgeously for the tender passages. […] this performance (Songs of Travel) is deeply engaging and comes to a deeply affecting conclusion as Rutherford reduces his voice to a vibrato-free hush on the final line ”And I have lived and loved, and closed the door.” Rutherford rapturous singing of the beautiful long lines brings you magically into the night of those “that suffer long” who may in sleep “know some little joy”. 
This is one of the best available anthologies of 20th Century English songs." 

American Records Guide, January/February 2013, R Moore

Wagner: Meistersinger / November 2012

Vienna State Opera

"I can think of no better Sachs than James Rutherford, charismatic and extraordinarily young for the role, but sailing through it effortlessly with his velvety baritone." Musical America, 30 November 2012

Verdi: La Traviata Recording, April 2012

Graz Opera

'James Rutherford (Bayreuth's Hans Sachs) and Italian tenor Giuseppe Varano (as a nerdy, speccy Alfredo straight out of Brad in The Rocky Horror Show) are intensely involved and in good vocal shape.'

Mike Ashman / Gramophone / April 2012

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius / Gardner / CBSO, April 2012

United Kingdom

12th April 2012, Symphony Hall, Birmingham
'James Rutherford was in his customary commanding, authoritative form as the Priest despatching Gerontius into the afterworld, and as the awesome Angel of the Agony interceding for him as judgement approaches.'

Christopher Morley / Birmingham Post / 13 April 2012
'Baritone James Rutherford brought Part One to an exultant close with his deeply mellow, resounding Priest filling the Symphony Hall, backed by a rhythmically insistent CBSO chorus.'

Andrew H. King / Bachtrack / 16 April / 5 stars
14th April 2012, Barbican Centre, London
'James Rutherford, authoritative in the bass roles, completed a top-flight team of soloists.'

Barry Millington / The Evening Standard / 16 April 2012

Otello, January 2012

Graz Opera

"James Rutherford als Orest ist nicht weniger als eine Luxusbesetzung auf Weltklasseniveau, sein viriles Timbre tönt wie in Ehrfurcht gebietende delphische Bronze gegossen."

Harald Haslmayr / Die Presse / 22 January 2012
"Mit dem Orest, den er markig, kraftvoll und nobel singt, hat James Rutherford eine weitere Paradepartie erobert."

Ernst Naredi-Rainer / Kleine Zeitung / 22 January 2012
"Orest, dieser wieder von James Rutherford, souverän und zum Teil aus dem Zuschauerraum gesungen und somit bewußt als Nichtinsasse herausgestellt."

Peter Skorepa / Neue Merker / 22 January 2012
"James Rutherford ist ein nobel timbrierender Orest"

Helmut Christian Mayer / Kurier / 22 January 2012
"James Rutherfords stimmkräftiger Orest ist eine Bank"

Martin Gasser / Kronen Zeitung / 22 January 2012
"James Rutherford, ein als Harlekin oder Hofnarr kostümierter Jago, singt diesen sehr kraftvoll, mit reichem Tremolo in der Tiefe."

Helmut Christian Mayer/ Kurier / 3 October 2011
James Rutherford (momentan Bayreuths Hans Sachs) gelingt eine raffinierte, in jeder Nuance durchdachte Darstellung jenes Erzbösewichtes, der eben nicht notwendig ein ölig-schwarzes Gangster-Timbre benötigt, um zu überzeugen.

Die Presse / 5 October 2011