James Bowman Obituary, Death Cause – His career encompassed a wide range of musical genres, including opera, oratorio, modern music, and solo recitals. In 2010 it was announced that he would give his last London concert in 2011 at the Wigmore Hall, although he would continue to give recitals outside the capital. Bowman’s background is in Anglican church music. He retired from the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace in London after a decade of service there a few years ago.
He was educated at The King’s School, Ely where he began singing as a boy chorister at Ely Cathedral, progressing to become head chorister. After the traditional rest when his voice broke he returned as a bass but around 1959 gave his first public performance as a countertenor to a small school congregation in the Lady Chapel. After that, he attended New College, Oxford, where he studied organ and was a member of both the New College and Christ Church choirs during his time there.
While he was still in school in 1967, he tried out for a position with Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group. He was cast as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a part which had been composed with Alfred Deller’s voice in mind: Bowman, who had a larger voice than Deller, went to have a long association with the part. He appeared at Glyndebourne in 1970 in Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto (the first countertenor to sing there), at English National Opera in 1971 in Semele, and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1972 in Taverner. In 1973, he originated the part of the
“Voice of Apollo” in Benjamin Britten’s production of Death in Venice. Bowman retired from the operatic stage to concentrate on concert work after having appeared at most of the world’s major opera houses including La Scala, Milan; Amsterdam, Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Sydney, Verona, Vienna, Strasbourg, Santa Fe, Dallas, and San Francisco.