About James Onstad
Hailed as “sensitive and precise” and “hauntingly beautiful” (New Classic LA), American tenor JAMES ONSTAD is a versatile stage and concert performer. His 2018/2019 season features performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Bernstein’s MASS, as well as his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in John Cage’s sprawling operatic epic Europeras (a co-production of the LA Phil and The Industry). In February, James and pianist Nathan Salazar will present a recital of classic and contemporary art songs as part of the Serenata de Santa Fe chamber music series in Santa Fe, NM. While in March, he will appear with the Le Salon des Musiques chamber music series in Los Angeles with a program of French art song. In late spring, James will join the esteemed guitarist David Leisner in recital at the Carrizozo chamber music series, as well as Bargemusic in New York City.
This past August and September, James appeared in title role of Bernstein’s Candide in a co-production with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Clarence Brown Theater. Hedy Weiss of WTTW Chicago called his performance of Candide “beautifully sung, emotionally true.” And in July, James made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Marin Alsop, in a production Leonard Bernstein’s MASS. (James will return to Ravinia next June to appear in an encore performance of MASS with the CSO.) Oratorio credits this past season include soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra, as well as the evangelist and tenor soloist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorios and Magnificat with Musica Angelica— “Southern California’s most important early music ensemble” (LA Times).
As an operatic performer, James is committed to new and relevant work. He has performed regularly with the Los Angeles experimental opera company The Industry, bringing to life the the role of The Ghost of Orfeo in their monumental 2015 production Hopscotch— a mobile, immersive operatic experience, which Alex Ross of the New Yorker called “awe inspiring.” In 2017, he sang the role of Ted Hinton in the world premiere of Andrew McIntosh's new opera Bonnie and Clyde, which was a co-production with the Industry and wild Up—LA’s premiere modern orchestra . James has collaborated closely with the MacArthur Genius award winner and composer Matthew Aucoin, singing in Aucoin’s opera Crossing with the American Repertory Theater in 2015 and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2017, and premiering the role of Jake in Aucoin's Second Nature with Chicago Lyric Opera Unlimited.
James is a passionate interpreter of Art Song and has has honed this craft under guidance of the masters of our time, including Margo Garrett, Martin Katz, Graham Johnson and Sir Thomas Allen.
A native of Santa Fe, NM, James Onstad holds a bachelor’s degree cum laude in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in French from Harvard University, as well as master’s degree in vocal performance from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where he was the recipient of the Emilie M. Dieterle award and scholarship.