Born in Burnley, of Irish descent, Kathleen Wilkinson studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she won a Peter Moores Foundation Scholarship and was the first female winner of the Webster Booth Competition. She made her debut at the Royal Opera, London in 2005, as The She-Ancient/’The Midsummer Marriage’, and has returned as Anna Kennedy/’Maria Stuarda’, Brigitta/’Die Tote Stadt’, Third Maid/’Elektra’, Mother Goose/’The Rake’s Progress’, Filipyevna/ ‘Eugene Onegin’ and Giovanna/’Rigoletto’.
Other engagements have included Mrs Herring/’Albert Herring’ and Mistress Quickly/’Falstaff’ for Glyndebourne on Tour; Ursule/’Béatrice et Bénédict’ with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Geneviève/’Pelléas et Mélisande’, Herdswoman/’Jenůfa’ and Filipyevna for Glyndebourne Festival; Pastuchyna/’Jenůfa’, Cleaning Lady/’The Makropulos Case’ and Mamma Lucia/’Cavalleria Rusticana’ for English National Opera; Mère Jeanne/’Dialogue des Carmelites’ and Filipyevna for Welsh National Opera, Grange Park Opera and Opera Holland Park. For Scottish Opera she created the roles of Margaret Muir/’Friend of the People’ and Mary Lamb/’Monster!’ and has sung Nurse / Old Woman/’Inés de Castro’, First Norn/’Götterdämmerung’, Erda/’Das Rheingold’ and Schwertleite/’Die Walküre’.
European engagements have included Nurse / Old Woman/’Inés de Castro’ at the Teatro Coliseu, Porto, Auntie/’Peter Grimes’, Grandmother Buryja/’Jenůfa’, La Ciesca/’Gianni Schicchi’, Mistress of the Novices/’Suor Angelica’ and Lady in Waiting/’Macbeth’ for the Opéra de Lyon, Marcellina/’Le nozze di Figaro’ and Mistress Quickly at the Opéra de Rennes, Marcellina at Flanders Opera, Mistress Quickly at the Angers / Nantes Opéra and Erda at the Sopot International Wagner Festival, as well as concerts at the Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago.
Recordings include Káťa Kabanová and The Makropulos Case for Chandos CD and Eugene Onegin for Opus Arte DVD / Blu Ray. Her performance of Filipyevna at the ROH in 2013 was shown on Channel 4 and at cinemas worldwide, and in 2016 her performance of the same role at Garsington was seen on big screens throughout the UK and streamed live on BBC ARTS.
She has appeared as soloist on a number of BBC radio broadcasts, and on several for Radio France, and the Mezzo Channel. Conductors she has worked with include Thomas Adès, Sir Richard Armstrong, Steuart Bedford, Martyn Brabbins, Bertrand de Billy, Douglas Boyd, Sir Mark Elder, Richard Farnes, Edward Gardner, Richard Hickox, Leo Hussain, Alexander Joel, Vladimir Jurowski, Kirill Karabits, Jan Latham-Koenig, Lothar Koenigs, Sir Charles Mackerras, James MacMillan, Paul McCreesh, Ingo Metzmacher, Kazushi Ono, Carlo Rizzi and Robin Ticciati. She sings regularly in concert, her repertoire including Beethoven Symphony No.9, Dvorak Requiem and Stabat Mater, Elgar The Dream of Gerontius, The Musicmakers and Sea Pictures, Mendelssohn Elijah, Mozart Requiem, Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle and Stabat Mater and Verdi Requiem. She was also the featured soloist at The Last Night of the Hallé Proms.
In summer 2016 she sang Filipyevna for Garsington Opera at Wormsley, and engagements during 2016 / 2017 included Mother Goose at the Théâtre de Caen, the Opéra de Limoges, the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, the Opéra de Reims and the Opéra de Rouen Normandie. In 2017 she sang Mrs Herring in the acclaimed John Copley production of ‘Albert Herring’, (conducted by Steuart Bedford), Marnie’s Mother in the world premiere of ‘Marnie’ at ENO. Most recently she sang Giovanna for the ROH, screened in over 1,000 cinemas worldwide. In 2019 she sang Mrs Grose in the award-winning production of ‘The Turn of the Screw’ at Garsington, with other highlights of the year including The Dream of Gerontius at the Royal Festival Hall, and the Verdi Requiem at the RNCM. Covid-19 saw the postponement of her singing Mrs Grose in Poland, Filipyevna at Opera Holland Park and Bianca/’Rape of Lucretia’ in Berlin. She returned to Garsington with great success for Filipyevna this summer and is in Germany this autumn for Bianca.
“The best singing came from British mezzo Kathleen Wilkinson as Brigitta. Firm of tone, well modulated, gracefully phrased and with good diction”.
“There is a fine performance by Kathleen Wilkinson as Brigitta, Paul’s loyal housekeeper. Hers is a firm and powerful voice from a singer, who despite the brevity of the role, leaves a lasting impression”.
“Kathleen Wilkinson was ideally cast as Albert’s mother. Bossy, then emotionally drained and finally shocked to the marrow at her son’s defiance.”