A Cambridge English graduate with an MPhil in American Literature, James began his career in 2009 with English Touring Opera. He has since worked at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Salzburg Festival, Royal Danish Opera, National Theatre, Barbican, Edinburgh International Festival, English National Opera, Glyndebourne, and Opera North.

James' stagings encompass premieres of new and rediscovered pieces alongside works from the core repertoire. Highlights include Don Giovanni (British Youth Opera); l'Ospedale (Aldeburgh, Wilton's Music Hall, Bury Court Opera); Le Docteur Miracle (Royal Academy Opera); Le Nozze di Figaro (Kilden Teater-og Konserhus); Snow (The Opera Story); La Rondine (Factory 7, Bristol Paintworks); Idomeneo, Noye's Fludde (Blackheath Halls Opera); Aida, L'elisir d'amore (Riverside Opera). James has directed revivals for Opera North and English Touring Opera and later this year he revives La Traviata for Glyndebourne-on-Tour.

James is passionate about bringing opera to new audiences. As creative director of Opera di Peroni (2012-13) he contributed to an innovative performance campaign that presented opera in unconventional locations across the UK, and since 2015 he has created four touring productions for Pop-Up Opera. His acclaimed 2016 staging of I Capuleti e i Montecchi for the company was filmed as part of the BBC/British Council's Shakespeare Lives event, and three of his stagings (Capuleti, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Hansel und Gretel) have enjoyed successful revivals.

James has considerable experience working with young and emerging artists. In addition to his work with British Youth Opera and RAM he has directed opera scenes for the Royal College of Music and Trinity Laban and delivered youth and education projects for Opera North and Blackheath Halls.