James trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before starting work in Opera in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe. He has worked on productions for English National Opera, Royal College of Music, Opera North, the Royal Festival Hall at the South Bank Centre, Los Angeles Opera and Santa Fe Opera. These have included: Katya Kabanovna, Così fan tutte, Sir John in Love, The Gondoliers, Carmen Jones, The Adventures of Pinocchio, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Wizard of Oz. Most recent work includes The Magic Flute at the English National Opera. Future projects include A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music in London and a new production of Turandot in September 2009.