James Johnson began his career as a member of the ensembles at the Staatstheater Braunschweig, Cologne Opera and Graz Opera in Germany and Austria. He has since appeared at many of the leading opera theaters in the world, including the Paris Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Gran Teatre de Liceu in Barcelona, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Hamburg State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Los Angeles Opera. He has also appeared at the festivals of Salzburg, Bayreuth, Schwelsig-Holstein, Aspen, and Ravinia.

Johnson has been praised not only for his voice but also for his dramatic abilities, amply demonstrated in roles ranging from the major heldenbaritone roles of Wagner and Strauss to roles encompassing the Italian, French, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, and Polish repertoire. This season, he will appear as Wotan/The Wanderer in The Ring Cycle with Opera Australia.

Johnson has sung with such leading conductors as James Levine, James Conlon, Georges Pretre, Michael Gielen, Donald Runnicles, Peter Schneider, Adam Fischer and Michael Schoenwandt. Concert appearances have included engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmoniker, Munich Philharmoniker, Vienna Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Copenhagen, and the radio orchestras of Denmark and Suedfunk and Suedwestfunk in Germany. His opera recordings include Der Ring des Nibelungen, Die Meistersinger, Penthesilea, Die Voegel, and Der Zerbrochener Krug, and his concert recordings include Lyrische Sinfonie and Der Jakobsleiter.