James Henshaw is an Olivier nominated Opera, Choral and Orchestral Conductor based in London. He joined English National Opera in August 2015 and became ENO’s youngest ever Chorus Master in August 2016. He will leave to pursue a freelance career as a conductor in December 2019. During his tenure the Chorus won a 2016 Olivier Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Opera’ and ‘Best Chorus’ at the International Opera Awards.
During James’s time at ENO he made his London Coliseum debut as 2nd conductor in Birtwistle’s Mask of Orpheus for which he received his Olivier award nomination. He conducted the UK premier of Jonathan Dove’s The Day After named by the Guardian as one of Classical music’s top 10 best things in 2017, Britten’s Paul Bunyan at Alexandra Palace and was due to conduct the final three performances of a new production of The Marriage of Figaro in April 2020 until the run of performances was cut short by the Covid-19 crisis.
James runs his own orchestra, The Outcry Ensemble, based in West London at St John’s Church Notting Hill. The Orchestra performs new music in each one of its concerts and has performed works by Kate Whitley, Joel Rust, Laurence Osborn, Josephine Stephenson and Freya Whaley-Cohen.
James has conducted operas for many of the UK’s professional Opera companies. In 2015 James made his professional conducting debut with four performances of La Boheme for English Touring Opera where he also assisted on Donizetti’s L’assedio di Calais and Il furioso. He has since made his debut with Longborough Festival Opera and Garsington Opera with productions of Die Zauberflöte assisting Anthony Negus and Christian Curnyn respectively and conducting a performance with both companies. He has also been Assistant Conductor to Stuart Stratford at Scottish Opera with 2 outreach performances of Johnathan Dove’s Flight.
James studied Music at Clare College, Cambridge where he was a choral scholar and award winner as both conductor and pianist. Having graduated with a Distinction in Repetiteuring from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he assisted Mark Wigglesworth at the Aldeburgh Music Festival on Owen Wingrave whose cast included Susan Bullock, Janis Kelly, Jonathan Summers and Richard Berkeley-Steele. He also assisted Mark Wigglesworth at the Proms with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in 2015 and 2016. In 2014 he worked with Ivor Bolton on Monteverdi’s Orfeo as Chorus Master at the Bayerischer Staatsoper.
James’ first post in London was as assistant to Toby Purser at the Orion Orchestra. Before long he became Music Director of Pop-Up Opera, with whom he worked for over a year on productions including L’elisir d’amore, Don Pasquale and Rita and La Serva Padrona.
“Orchestra? Musical director? Conductor? All one man. Looking about 19, James Henshaw on the electric piano was poised on a merry cusp between cinema accompanist and opera-house maestro“
The Times, L’elisir d’amore
“Musically it was faultless”
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer on the Mask of Orpheus