Artist Profile: James Morris, The Ultimate Wotan Of the Late 20th Century

By David Salazar

Bass-Baritone James Morris is one of the great American singers of the late 20th century.

Born on Jan. 10, 1947, Morris studied with Rosa Ponselle at the Peabody Conservatory and then attended the Academy of Vocal Arts and University of Maryland. He made his debut with the Baltimore Opera in 1967 and then appeared with the Metropolitan Opera for the first time on Jan. 1971 in Verdi’s “Aida.”

From there, he would become a mainstay at the Met throughout his performance career, taking the company’s famed stage over 1,000 times in repertoire that spanned the operas of Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Stravinsky, Gounod, Britten, Mozart, and Mussorgsky, among others.

He appeared in virtually every major opera house around the planet, including the Bavarian State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House, San Francisco Opera, and Vienna State Opera, among others.

He has performed a number of operas extensively throughout his career and has been a Professor of Voice at the Manhattan School of Music since 2014.

Signature Roles

Morris sang a wide range of major roles throughout his career, including many in the Italian repertoire, but it is impossible to separate him from one in particular – Wotan in Wagner’s Ring. For decades, Morris WAS Wotan for many opera singers. He performed the role at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House and San Francisco Opera, among other venues. He famously studied the role with Hans Hotter, another renowned Wotan interpreter, who told Morris to sing it like Bel Canto.

Morris also famously turned down an invitation to sing the role at Bayreuth due to another commitment he had with the Santa Fe Opera. His interpretation is immortalized in a Met Opera release of the entire cycle on both CD and DVD.

Read More on Morris

Roles He Shares With Fellow Birthday Boy Sherrill Milnes

Watch and Listen

Here is a full recording of “Die Walküre.”

And here is a recording of “Das Rheingold.”


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