James read English at Cambridge University before completing an MPhil in American Literature, specialising in dramatist David Mamet. Recent directing includes l'Ospedale (Wilton's Music Hall & Aldeburgh Music); Idomeneo, Brundibar, The Little Sweep, Noye's Fludde (Blackheath Halls); The Selfish Giant (Opera North); La Rondine (Factory 7 / Bristol Paintworks); Aida (Epsom Playhouse); Semele (Upstairs at the Gatehouse).
He has staged revivals for Opera North and English Touring Opera, and worked on the directing staff at the Royal National Theatre, Edinburgh International Festival, English National Opera, and Glyndebourne, assisting directors including Deborah Warner, Tom Cairns, Jonathan Kent, Martin Duncan, David Alden, and Tim Albery. Highlights include Jenufa (ON), Between Worlds (ENO/Barbican), La Traviata (GFO & GOT), Minetti (EIF), Scenes from an Execution (NT), and Death in Venice (ENO/Amsterdam).
He has directed opera scenes for the Royal College of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire, as well as workshop rehearsals on David Mamet's rarely performed play, The Woods, at the National Theatre Studio.
James is passionate about bringing opera to new audiences. In 2013 he was creative director of Opera di Peroni; "an interactive, culturally relevant and exciting alternative to traditional opera" (Live Magazine), this year-long touring performance campaign brought site-specific operatic performances to cities across the UK.
"James Hurley’s production is tight and the touches throughout amusing." - Music OMH, L’Italiana in Algeri.
"James Hurley keeps this show moving at a break-neck speed which ensures that not a drop of comedy is lost" - West End Wilma, L’Italiana in Algeri.
"Despite the temptations to ham up Rossini’s crackling score the cast, on the whole, play it straight and that’s hats-off to director James Hurley." - The Argus 2016, Il Barbiere di Siviglia.