Obituary: Renowned Countertenor James Bowman Dies at 81

By Chris Ruel

The classical music world is mourning the loss of James Bowman, a renowned countertenor who passed away on March 27, 2023, at the age of 81.

A trailblazer in early music and baroque period practice, Bowman performed at esteemed venues such as the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Glyndebourne, Paris Opera, and La Scala.

Collaborating with the era’s most prominent conductors, he left a legacy of over 130 recordings.

Bowman’s journey began as a boy chorister at Ely Cathedral before he joined the choirs of Oxford New College and Christ Church.

In 1967, he auditioned for Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group and secured the role of Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a part originally intended for countertenor Alfred Deller. Bowman’s distinctive portrayal of the character marked the beginning of his unique interpretation of the role.

Bowman carried on the work of Deller, broadening the range of countertenor singing and providing a model for future singers.

Iestyn Davies, his friend and fellow performer, noted, “to be a countertenor anywhere in the world today is to do so standing on the shoulders of Alfred Deller and James Bowman.”