Born in Ohio, McCray served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War before entering the Mannes School of Music in
New York City where he was a pupil of Patricia Neway. In 1962 he won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In the
Spring of 1965 he was active with the Concert Opera Association at Philharmonic Hall in NYC, singing Chekalinsky in Pique Dame
and Francesco in the United States premiere of Benvenuto Cellini. The following summer he appeared
at the Stratford Festival of Canada as Jimmy Mahoney in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
From 1965-1968 McCray was active with the Israel National Opera; performing such roles as Canio, Cavaradossi,
Don José, Manrico, Riccardo, and Samson. In 1969, he made his
debut at the New York City Opera as Vladimir. The following year he sang Loris with the Opera Orchestra of New York,
conductor Eve Queler, and soprano Judith
de Paul ias Fedora.
In 1971 he sang Dick Johnson at the Minnesota Opera. That same year he performed the role of Manrico with Irene Dalis and Betty Allen
alternating in the role of Alzucena for the San
Francisco Opera. In 1972 he created the role of Ken in the world premiere of Harold Farberman's The Losers which was commissioned
by the Juilliard School.
From 1974-1976 McCray performed annually with the Greater Miami Opera Association, portraying roles in productions of Robert Ward's The
Crucible, Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, and Giuseppe Verdi's Otello under conductor Emerson Buckley. In 1977 he had
a particular triumph at the Seattle Opera as Siegfried in Wagner's The Ring Cycle.
McCray joined Giancarlo del Monaco in Kassel, Germany in september 1981 for Otello and Tristan.
During the 80's and early 90's McCray sang in various European Theaters including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Copenhaguen, Amsterdam,
Barcelona, Prague, Catania, Cagliari, Oslo, Rouen, Toulon, Nantes, Angier, Orange and Bordeaux among others.
In addition to singing "Siegfried" in August Everding's Ring in Warsaw, Poland in 1989 and 1990, he sung over 100 performances
of Tristan and Isolde including a production in Brussels with Gwynneth Jones,conducted by Sylvan Camberline ,
L'Opera de Montréal with Berit Lindholm regie by Roberto Oswald and costumes by Anibal Lapiz , and in Nancy, France,
with Liesbeth Baltslev and in Freiburg (Germany) with Deborah Polaski, singing her first Isolde.And in Bordeaux (France)
with Linda Kelm, conducted by Pincus Steinberg and sets and costumes by Daniel Ogier. With the stage director Giancarlo del Monaco
he has performed the principal tenor role in several productions including Otello, Il Tabarro and Tannhäuser.
McCray has sang every Wagnerian opera for heroic tenor, from Liebesvertod and Die Feen to Parsifal.
McCray has sang the Wagnerian repertoire in various Italian opera houses including La Fenice in Venice, where he also sang Fritz i
n Franz Schreker's Der Ferne Klang with Sylvia Sass, under the musical direction of Gabriele Ferro.
During this period McCray sang in several productions of Otello in theaters at Split, Hamburg, Zagreb, Graz, Gand Liège, Prague,
Bratislava, and Miami Florida.
In october 1995 McCray was invited to Novi-Sad in Yugoslavia to sing a humanitarian concert and prepare some of his singers,
including Frank Van Aken for the production of Werther.
At the same time, he sang Canio in Pagliacci in Novi Sad where he met his wife Prizrenka Petkovic McCray.
McCray's last performance was Pollione in Bellini's "Norma" with the great yugoslavian soprano Radmila Bakocivic at the
May Festival in Skopje, Macedonia in 1996.
Since then he has been teaching in Yugoslavia, Italy, Germany, San Francisco (California) and in The Hague.
Since the beginning of 1997, at the kind introduction of Professor Jan Glastra van Loon, James McCray,
his wife Prizrenka and daughter Violeta, have been living and teaching in The Hague.