Dr Jessica Walker

Academic Studies - Lecturer in Professional Development and Postgraduate Tutor

Performer, writer and educator

Music theatre piece 'Not Such Quiet Girls' commissioned by Opera North and Leeds Playhouse

Singer, writer and educator Jessica Walker works across opera, theatre, cabaret and new music. Recent performing and creative projects have taken her from the Barbican to the Adelaide Festival to Brits off Broadway New York, where her work and performances have earned her critic’s pick in the New York Times on three separate occasions in the last five years.

Current and future writing commissions include her play with songs Not Such Quiet Girls for Opera North and Leeds Playhouse, and her new opera with composer Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, in development with ROH. Future performances include Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest for Neue Opera Freiburg and Bernstein’s On the Town with director Antony McDonald in Hyogo and Tokyo.

Jessica’s recent projects as performer/ writer include All I Want is One Night, produced by the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, with further performances at Wilton's Music Hall, the Hope Mill theatre Manchester and the Brits off Broadway Festival New York, and The Girl I Left Behind Me, devised with director Neil Bartlett, and commissioned by Opera North projects. Performances for this have included the Purcell Room, Howard Assembly Rooms, Sage Gateshead, Brighton Theatre Royal, Aldeburgh Festival, Buxton Festival, Lowry Salford Quays, Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Brits off Broadway festival, and a week's residency at the Barbican Pit. It is published as a play script by Oberon Press, and released as a CD on the Original Cast Recordings label. Her solo piece Pat Kirkwood is Angry was originally co-produced by Opera North, in association with Royal Exchange Theatre; it began life at the Manchester Royal Exchange studio and the Howard Assembly Rooms in October 2012, and has toured ever since, with performances at the Brits off Broadway festival, St James Theatre London, the Grassington Festival, the Richard Burton Theatre Cardiff, Lichfield Festival, and the main stage of the Royal Exchange. Jessica’s cabaret opera - An Eye for an Eye - written with composer David Knotts, premiered at both the Bath and St Magnus international music festivals in 2013.

As a concert artist Jessica’s recent appearances have included the UK premiere of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle Penelope with Psappha, artist residencies at Snape Maltings and the Lichfield Festival, and Mercy and Grand - the Tom Waits project with composer Gavin Bryars, which toured the UK before going to the Adelaide Festival. It is released as a CD on the GB label. Other recent recordings include WW1 songs for Enter the Peace Broker (Chrome Radio), and her new CD All I Want is One Night – death and desire at the French cabaret (Chrome Media).

Notable new music performances include Ligeti's Aventures - Nouvelles Aventures and the world premiere of Joanna Lee's song cycle, Elephant Woman, both with Psappha. She created the role of Ziggy in Unborn in America, by Luke Styles and Peter Cant, which premiered at The Vaults Festival. She was the singer in Caryl Churchill's The Skriker with RET and MIF, with new music by Nico Muhly, recorded for BBC Radio 3, and she played Gwendolyn in the Irish premier of Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest (NI Opera).

Other performance highlights have included Sunday in the Park with George (Theatre du Chatelet), Gloria, A Pig Tale, by HK Gruber with The Opera Group, Martinu's Julietta (Opera North at the Ravenna Festival), and Gigi in School for Lovers (Glyndebourne and Finnish National Opera).

Jessica is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 2016 she was awarded her PhD with commendation from Leeds University. Her practice-led research explored 'The Singer-actor as Creator and Collaborator: a performer-led model for new music theatre works.' The research was carried out with the support of a bursary from the School of PCI at the University of Leeds.

Her teaching/mentoring has included seminars, workshops, talks and master-classes at  the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Leeds University, Winchester University, University of Melbourne, the Melbourne Conservatorium, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and a current initiative with the Jette Parker Artists at ROH. She has worked as a mentor for several organisations, including the Jerwood opera-writing scheme at Snape Maltings and the CoLab collaborative practice scheme at Trinity Laban.

Jessica has given papers about collaborative practice at two International Song, Stage and Screen conferences, a workshop presentation at the Reflective Conservatoire Conference at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and papers at the Leeds University conference, The Theory, Practice and Business of Opera Today, and at the Psi Performance and Philosophy working group conference.

Articles include 'The creative/ collaborative process in industry: aesthetics, agency and pragmatism', will appear in a specialist issue of Studies in Musical Theatre in 2018, edited by Professor David Roesner, and 'The Girl I Left Behind Me: the disjunction between vocal and visual performance in male impersonation', appears in the Intellect journal, Studies in Musical Theatre, Vol 6:1.





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