Hargrave Music Festival

Jessica Walker

Jessica Walker is a versatile and acclaimed performer and writer.  Having started out in mainstream opera, as a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she now also devises and writes her own shows.  Recent projects include All I Want is One Night – her new play written for the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester – and The Rattler for Mahogany Opera Group. 2015 included Mercy and Grand – the Tom Waits project at the Adelaide Festival with Gavin Bryars, Unborn in America by Luke Styles/Peter Cant at The Vaults Festival, further performances of Pat Kirkwood is Angry at the St James Theatre Studio, and the singer in Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker with RET and MIF.  Other roles include Gwendolen in Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest (NI Opera), Nurse/Harriet Sunday in the Park with George (Théâtre du Châtelet), Gloria A Pig Tale, by HK Gruber with The Opera Group,  Gloria in Weill’s One Touch of Venus (Opera North), The Little Arab in Martinu’s Julietta (Opera North/Ravenna Festival), Gigi in School for Lovers (Glyndebourne/ Finnish National Opera), Peep Bo in The Mikado ( Nationale Reis Opera, Holland), Ninfa Orfeo (Opera North), Tamiri in Mozart’s Il Re Pastore (Musiektheater Transparant), Messenger/Proserpina in Orfeo (The Opera Group), and Cherubino Le Nozze di Figaro (Stanley Hall).

Since 2010 she has been touring The Girl I Left Behind Me, a solo piece devised by her and director Neil Bartlett, and commissioned by Opera North projects, to great critical acclaim. Performances have included a week’s residency at the Barbican Pit, the Purcell Room, Howard Assembly Rooms, Sage Gateshead, Brighton Theatre Royal, Aldeburgh Festival, Coutts Arts Festival, the Frome Festival, Buxton Festival, Lowry Salford Quays and Norfolk and Norwich Festival. The piece enjoyed a 3 week sell-out run at the 2013 festival at the 59E59 theatre New York, was recently published as a play script by Oberon Press, and was released in 2014 as a CD on the Original Cast Recordings label.

Her latest solo show, Pat Kirkwood is Angry,  originally co-produced by Opera North, in association with Royal Exchange Theatre, began life at the Manchester Royal Exchange studio and the Howard Assembly Rooms in October 2012, and  toured into 2013 with performances at the St James Theatre, London, the Grassington Festival, the Richard Burton Theatre, Cardiff and the main stage of the Royal Exchange. In June 2014 went to the Brits off Broadway festival for a three week run, in which it was Charles Isherwood’s critics pick of the week in the New York Times.

In May and June 2013 her cabaret opera – An Eye for an Eye – written with composer David Knotts, premiered at both the Bath and St Magnus music festivals, to critical acclaim.

Jessica’s recent concert engagements have included Love is a Drag at Grassington Festival, Peace Cabaret at Lichfield Festival.  Brel, Brassens and Barbara at the Bath International Music Festival with Alasdair Nicolson.  recitals at the Howard Assembly Rooms, Opera North – Recession Songs and Songs from the Left Bank – with accompanist Jim Holmes, Ligeti’s Aventures – Nouvelles Aventures and the world premiere of Joanna Lee’s song cycle, Elephant Woman, both with Psappha. She toured Mercy and Grand: the Tom Waits Project with Opera North throughout the UK and in Milan, a CD of which has been released on the Gavin Bryars label, GB.  A CD from a previous concert tour of hers – A Quiet Girl: songs of love and other disasters – is available on the Avid label.

Other recent projects have included Nerone in The Coronation of Poppea at the Kings Head, in a new version translated and directed by Mark Ravenhill, with jazz arrangements by Alex Silverman, a revival of Mercy and Grand  at St George’s Hall, Bristol and the Spitalfields Winter Festival, and the title role of Ziggy in Unborn in America, by Luke Styles and Peter Cant at the Tete a Tete festival, ROH2’s Exposure and the Soho Theatre.

As a performer/ deviser, Jessica recently completed a major collaboration – OPENCOV – between Opera North, Leeds University, Bregenz Festival and the Shanghai Theatre Academy, exploring links and differences between Chinese and Western operatic traditions, and culminating in workshop performances in Shanghai, Bregenz and Leeds.

Jessica has recently been awarded her PhD with commendation from Leeds University, with the support of a bursary from the School of PCI. Her practice-led research explored ‘The Singer-actor as Creator and Collaborator: a performer-led model for new music theatre works.’ See the Dr Jessica Walker page on this website for more details.


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