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 UK 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 Eugene Onegin for Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Pastuchyna Jenůfa, Cleaning Lady The Makropulos Case and Mamma Lucia Cavalleria Rusticana for English National Opera, Mère Jeanne Dialogues 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 Falstaff at the Opéra de Rennes, Marcellina Le Nozze di Figaro at Flanders Opera, Mistress Quickly at the Angers / Nantes Opéra and Erda Das Rheingold 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 Eugene Onegin 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 Eugene Onegin for Garsington Opera at Wormsley, and engagements during 2016 / 2017 included Mother Goose The Rake’s Progress in 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 Rigoletto for the ROH, screened in over 1,000 cinemas worldwide.