James Bonas is a traditional storyteller for the modern era. He combines imagination and intellect with a curiosity for technology and new forms, whether directing classical or contemporary theatre, opera or dance.
James trained as an actor at RADA before developing a career as a director with interests ranging from classical theatre and contemporary opera to innovation in the use of video design and animation.
James Bonas’ most recent work in opera includes the French premiere of Abrahamsen’s Snow Queen for Opéra national du Rhin – winner of the French critics Best Scenic Elements/Scenography award 2022 - and Jonathan Dove’s Flight for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is a regular collaborator with animatorGrégoire Pont at Opéra National de Lyon, where productions include Orff’s Der Mond and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges and L’Heure Espagnol. Their innovative approach has led to these works being seen around the world,including at Opéra de Limoges, Opéra de Lille, Royal Opera House Muscat, San Francisco Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Other recent stagings include the world premiere of a new community opera Silent City for Matera in Italy (European Capital of Culture) and Chabrier’s L’étoile at the Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos (Lisbon). In Spring 2023 he makes his German debut with Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos at Theater Magdeburg.
James also works internationally in dance and enjoys an ongoing collaboration with choreographers including Helen Pickett and Sophie Laplane. With Helen Pickett he created an award-winning narrative ballet - The Crucible - for Scottish Ballet, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival 2019, with further runs at Sadler’s WellsLondon, the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC and Nashville, Tennessee. With Sophie Laplane he created the celebrated short film Dive, also for Scottish Ballet, which has been featured in dance film festivals worldwide including the 2021 Venice Biennale and winning the Grand Jury Prize at Cinedans 2022. Plans include new creations for Canadian National Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Dutch National Ballet.
An advocate for multi-disciplinary performance, James collaborated with Damon Albarn and Abderrahmane Sissako as Artistic Consultant on the creation of Le Vol du Boli, an exploration of the complex and often brutal relations between Europe and West Africa, at the Théâtre du Châtelet. Appearing regularly at the BBC Proms, he staged Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale with the Hebrides Ensemble at the Drill Hall, Lincoln, as well as Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique with Aurora Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. This can also be seen at the South Bank Centre in September 2022. For the 2022 BBC Proms hecollaborates with Anthony Roth-Costanzo and ENO on Glass Handel at the Print Works in London.
As associate director James regularly worked alongside directors including Rufus Norris, Terry Gilliam, Tom Morris and Simon McBurney on productions such as Wonder.land at the National Theatre and Théâtre du Châtelet, Raskatov A Dog’s Heart for ENO/Complicité and Adams The Death of Klinghoffer for ENO and the Metropolitan Opera.