"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
Jessica Walker is a versatile and acclaimed performer and writer. Having started out in mainstream opera, her work now encompasses writing and performing her own shows, as well as appearing as a guest artist in concert and opera.
Her engagements during 2017/18 include her play All I Want is One Night at Wilton's Music Hall London, Hope Mill Theatre Manchester and Brits off Broadway New York, a recording of First World War songs for Enter the Peace Broker (Chrome Radio), the UK premiere of song cycle Penelope by Sarah Kirkland Snider with Psappha, cabaret appearances at Live at Zedel, Roman River Festival, Nottingham Theatre Royal, and Hargrave Festival, and several concerts as Artist in Residence at the 2018 Lichfield Festival.
Her first solo show The Girl I Left Behind Me was co-created with director Neil Bartlett and has had performances at venues including Opera North (who developed the production), Barbican Centre, Brits off Broadway, Brighton Festival, Sage Gateshead, Buxton Festival, The Lowry and Aldeburgh. It has been published as a play script by Oberon Press and released as a CD on Original Cast Recordings.
This was followed up by Pat Kirkwood is Angry which was co-produced by the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester and was also seen at Opera North and Brits off Broadway (where is was Charles Isherwood's critics pick of the week in the New York Times) as well as having performances at the Grassington Festival and St James Theatre London.
Other recent highlights have included Mercy and Grand; The Tom Waits Project with Gavin Bryars at the Adelaide Festival, The Skriker by Caryl Churchill at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester (recorded for BBC Radio 3), Brel, Barbara et Brassens, with Alasdair Nicolson at the Bath and St Magnus International Festivals, Ligeti's Aventures, Nouvelles aventures and the world premiere of Joanna Lee's song cycle Elephant Woman for Psappha, Love is a Drag at the Grassington Festival, The Rattler for Mahogany Opera Group and Peace Cabaret for the Lichfield Festival.
Her opera credits have included appearances for Opera North, Glyndebourne, National Reisopera, Chatelet Theatre Paris, NI Opera, Mahogany Opera Group, Ravenna Festival and Opera up Close in roles including Nerone L’incoronazione di Poppea, Cherubino Le Nozze di Figaro, Gwendolyn The Importance of Being Earnest (Gerald Barry) and Gloria One Touch of Venus (Kurt Weill).
She was recently awarded a PhD from Leeds University. Her practice-led research explored 'The Singer-actor as Creator and Collaborator: a performer-led model for new music theatre works’.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
All I Want is One Night
Wilton's Music Hall, London and Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Jessica Walker is one to watch, in my opinion. A technically-accomplished and intelligent performer, she has written a play with snappy dialogue and good jokes, and has translated Solidor’s songs from French to English herself...mezzo-soprano Walker succeeds in pulling the heart and tenderness out when needed in order to tell the story… This is a class act; go and see it
Alexandra Gray, Everything Theatre
Jessica Walker’s play tells the story of Solidor’s life in an evocative and intimate way…Walker’s beautiful renditions of Solidor’s numbers (accompanied by Joseph Atkins) are thrillingly affecting, whether it’s her trademark songs about sea, sex and sailors, or more personal songs sung to important people in her life. Walker captures the fluid sexuality of Solidor perfectly, oozing arrogance and self-regard in younger and older incarnations… All I Want Is One Night is a little gem of a play that deserves a much wider audience. Catch it while you can.
Claire Roderick, Fairy Powered Productions
Dressed in an admiral’s uniform, Walker commands the stage from the very beginning… All I Want Is One Night is an evening of song, poetry, love and lust, and the worthy rediscovery of a major player of the French cabaret world
Rosie Wilby, Out in South London
Mercy and Grand with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble
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
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
|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 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.