Jessica Walker


"Jessica Walker's Nero gleams and suggests a searching mind gone wrong [...] Her final duet is wondrous"

Kieron Quirke, Evening Standard

"Jessica Walker is an outstanding exponent of uncovering the inherent drama of this oeuvre [...] a blissful operatic singer giving meticulous measure to some unusual choices"

Mark Shenton, The Stage

"Jessica Walker is an exciting discovery. The voice has a tonally centred vibrancy, a cutting gleam where necessary, which she can fine down to hushed, pure, soft singing"

David Blewitt, The Stage

"...a pure, bright mezzo-soprano of such melting beauty I think I could listen to it forever"

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

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Jessica Walker studied at the Guildhall School of Music and has made appearances for Opera North, Glyndebourne, National Reisopera, Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, The Chatelet, NI Opera, The Mahogany Opera Group, Ravenna Festival and Opera up Close in roles including Nerone L’incoronazione di Poppea, Cherubino Le Nozze di Figaro, Gwendolyn Importance of Being Earnest and Gloria One Touch of Venus (Kurt Weill).

In 2010 she co-created her solo show The Girl I Left Behind Me with director Neil Bartlett. Commissioned by and premiered at Opera North the show has had considerable critical and commercial success at venues throughout the UK and abroad, including a three week sell-out run at the Brits off Broadway Festival 2013 New York and week-long residency at the Barbican’s Pit Theatre in 2011. Other venues it has visited include the Brighton Festival, Sage Gateshead, Buxton Festival, Purcell Room, the Lowry Salford Quays and at the Aldeburgh Festival. It has been published as a play script by Oberon Press and released as a CD on Original Cast Recordings.

Her second solo piece, Pat Kirkwood is Angry, has had performances at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, the Howard Assembly Room at Opera North, Grassington Festival and the St James Theatre Studio London, as well as returning to the Brits off Broadway Festival in 2014 as critics choice in the New York Times.

Regular concert programmes include Brel, Barbara et Brassens, with Music Director Alasdair Nicolson, most recently at the Bath and St Magnus International Festivals, and Mercy and Grand: The Tom Waits Project with Opera North, which toured the UK (released on the Gavin Bryars label).

Recent and current engagements include Mercy and Grand at the Adelaide Festival, The Skriker by Caryl Churchill at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester (also recorded for BBC Radio 3), Unborn in America at the Vaults Festival, Jessica’s new play, All I Want is One Night produced by Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, The Rattler for Mahogany Opera Group and Peace Cabaret for the Lichfield Festival.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Mercy and Grand with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble

Adelaide Festival

Opening dramatically with dynamic tango A Little Drop of Poison, Jess Walker, ahead of the Bryars-led ensemble chiming in on chorus, owned the stage. With maximum sass she performed a cracking selection of Waits/Brennan; these fabulous lyrical tales well told, and consummately performed.

Gordon Forester, Limelight Magazine

Jess Walker slipped effortlessly between the roles of Mezzo Soprano and Hooker from Minneapolis. It was utterly brilliant.

Ray Smith, Broadway World Online

Bryars introduced us to the superb mezzo soprano Jess Walker who evocatively rendered the tragedy of life that permeates these songs.

Chris Reid, RealTime Arts

Unborn in America

The Vaults, London

Mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker, an equally talented singer and actress, is indefatigable as the foetus, bringing charisma to the role and wringing the libretto for every scrap of humour.

Hannah Nepil, The Financial Times

Pat Kirkwood is Angry

59E59 Theaters, New York

Should Kirkwood be looking down from the showbiz heavens, she would be anything but riled by Ms Walker’s warm, evocative consideration of her career: a loving tribute from one singular talent to another.

Charles Isherwood, New York Times

Jessica Walker’s lovely musical memoir of the star’s life and career…But enough about Miss Kirkwood, — let us turn to the immense talent of Miss Walker as she deftly guides us on this intriguing journey. Not only is her original script a carefully crafted and fascinating exploration of this little-known saga, but also, thanks to her beautiful singing voice, the show comprises a virtual smorgasbord of wonderful songs associated with Kirkwood, and skilfully inserted in this production to gently guide the advancing plot.

The People’s Critic

The Importance of Being Earnest

NI Opera

The individual performances are faultlessly precise. Aoife Miskelly as Cecily and Jessica Walker as Gwendoline hurl themselves around the stage with selfless enthusiasm.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian *****

McDonald drew similarly sharp, observant performances from the other singers, among whom the mezzo Jessica Walker’s shock-headed, punky Gwendolen Fairfax made a particularly sparky impression.

Terry Blain, Opera Magazine

Jessica Walker’s robust fashion-conscious Gwendolen was also extremely memorable.

Andrew Mellor, Opera Now

An Eye for an Eye

Bath International Music Festival

What they have created is a charming musical nugget, a small, but perfectly formed treat, a delicious cupcake of a production.
The two woman cast of Jessica Walker and Harriet Williams, both consummate vocalists and actresses, had to play the parts of the two maids as well as their two murder victims, exchanging personalities at will. It was evident that both women took much delight in playing out their roles – and they sang and danced, harmonised and soloed marvelously – and for such a dark subject matter, delightfully.

Laura Dunlap, Listomania Bath

The Girl I Left Behind Me

59E59 Theaters, New York

Ms. Walker herself is certainly a bewitching performer… a pure, bright soprano of such melting beauty I think I could listen to it forever.

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

Walker, a gifted chanteuse.

The New Yorker

Possessing a warm and inviting aura as well as talents and abilities as both singer and performer that are indisputable, Ms. Walker is a pleasure.

Stage and Cinema

Mercy and Grand: The Tom Waits Project

Spitalfields Music Winter Festival

Walker makes no attempt to replicate Waits's own famously gravelly delivery. She sings, however, with terrific passion, gliding with ease from the sardonic "Little Drop of Poison" to the knowing bitterness of Weill's "Ballad of Sexual Dependency", and doing heartbreaking things with "Whistle Down the Wind" and "Georgia Lee".

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

Originally presented by Opera North, this unlikely but gripping project merits the wider audience that this live recording will bring. Gavin Bryars and his team take the songs of Tom Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan, and present them incongruously but superbly sung by the pure-voiced English mezzo Jess Walker, accompanied by a wheezy circus-style band that features harmonium, accordion, musical saw and trumpet=violin. Some Kurt Weill/ Bertolt Brecht ditties and Gypsy dances make perfect complements.

Richard Morrison, The Times

Waits was present merely in spirit, however, and his gravelly seafarer’s bark was replaced in Shoreditch Church by Jessica Walker’s agile and dramatic mezzo-soprano…Walker extracted some rich lyrical colouring from Waits’s sea-shantyish "Whistle Down The Wind"…"Pony", for instance, was a slow country ballad coloured with slide guitar and backwoods fiddle, with Walker squeezing soulfulness from the plaintive lyric.

Adam Sweeting, The Telegraph

Walker may be primarily an opera singer, but her cabaret instinct is wonderfully sure: she took command of the proceedings from the moment she sauntered up the aisle, and held us riveted from the outset with ‘Little Drop of Poison’. Her warm clean sound may be a million miles from Waits’s growl, but she evoked wintry pathos with ‘Alice’ and ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ just as effectively; Weill’s ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ never sounded more bleak.

Michael Church, The Independent

Current Programmes

An Eye for an Eye

Written with composer David Knotts, An Eye for an Eye takes the true story of the two maids who committed one of the most shocking crimes in French history, and transforms it into a riotous and gruesome cabaret opera. To the accompaniment of a French café band, two singers share the four roles of the mistresses and their servants in a virtuosic tour-de-force.

Pat Kirkwood is Angry

Originally premiered at the Royal Exchange Manchester, Jessica Walker brings to the stage the often turbulent life and beautiful songs of Pat Kirkwood, in a funny and heart-breaking show. Named Britain’s first wartime star in 1939, and with many illustrious credits, including songs written for her by Noël Coward and Cole Porter, Kirkwood is now mostly remembered for the scandal surrounding an alleged affair with HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, the repercussions of which were to haunt her for the rest of her life.

The Girl I Left Behind Me

A cool and contemporary look at one of the most intriguing aspects of musical theatre – just what is it that makes a woman in trousers so appealing? Accompanied by a piano, mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker dons a few well-chosen items of male attire, giving a supremely well-sung performance that conjures up an entire world, from the swaggering cross-dressers of the Victorian Music Hall to the ambiguous boy-heroes of Mozart and Strauss. Provocative, flirtatious and personal, this one woman-guide deliciously recalls a forgotten chapter of female performance. The Girl I Left Behind Me has been seen through the UK since it was first premiered and has had a three week run in New York at the Brits Off Broadway festival.

Songs from the Left Bank

First performed at the Howard Assembly Room, Opera North in January 2010, this programme is a sometimes funny, often poignant look at young love, old love, and lost love from the streets of Paris and features the music of Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens. Jessica Walker and Jim Holmes have developed a highly successful partnership, one of the trademarks of which is to take well-known songs and pair them with rarities. Always in new arrangements, piano and voice, together with Jessica’s powerful performing style, conjure up an evening of intense theatre, as well as sublime music – making.

Recession Songs

Recession Songs is a darkly hilarious look at hard times, from the worldwide depression of the late 1920’s, through to the economic and social gloom of today. The songs of Eisler and Weill sit cheek by jowl with Noel Coward, Rogers and Hart and some contemporary British and American rarities.

Mercy and Grand: The Tom Waits Project

Mercy and Grand brings together 10 songs by Tom Waits, a handful of numbers by Kurt Weill, a sea shanty, a hymn, a couple of instrumental gypsy tangos and a classic Fellini film score, all played by an extraordinarily versatile ‘circus band’ ensemble.

With mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker at the centre, Waits’ and Brennan’s songs of love, heartbreak and intoxication are revealed in all their strange beauty.

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