Based in New York City, American soprano Jessica Niles is pursuing her master’s degree at The Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at The Juilliard School, where she is a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship. This past summer, Ms. Niles was an Aspen Opera Center Fellow at Aspen Music Festival and School, performing Susanna in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, directed by Edward Berkeley and conducted by Jane Glover. During her time at Aspen, she also performed Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet in recital. Ms. Niles was also a Gerdine Young Artist at Opera Theatre of St. Louis in their 2019 season, participating in masterclasses with Stephanie Blythe and covering Susanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and Destiny/Loneliness/Greta in the world premiere of Fire Shut Up In My Bones by Terence Blanchard. In OTSL’s Centerstage Performance, she sang select scenes as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and West Side Story, conducted by OTSL’s Head of Music Roberto Kalb. In August, Ms. Niles participated in the Festival Dans les Jardins de William Christie, performing Monteverdi and Handel’s Aminta e Fillide with Les Arts Florissants.
This past spring Ms. Niles graduated from Juilliard with her bachelor’s degree, and was awarded the Peter Mennin Prize for outstanding achievement and leadership during her undergraduate studies. Prior, she studied in The Juilliard School Pre-College Division, graduating with distinguished awards for contributions to the division. Culminating her undergraduate studies, Jessica performed Zerlina in Juilliard’s mainstage production of Don Giovanni, directed by Emma Griffin and conducted by Joseph Colaneri. Past roles at Juilliard include Eurydice in Offenbach’s lively comic operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, directed by Mo Zhou, The Angel in Benjamin Britten's The Burning Fiery Furnace directed by Ed Berkeley and conducted by Mark Shapiro, Anne Page in Nicolai's Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor directed by John Giampietro and conducted by Teddy Poll, and Une Matelote in Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie directed by Stephen Wadsworth, choreographed by Zach Winokur, and conducted by Stephen Stubbs. Ms. Niles was noted for her performance as the young sailor, Une Matelote, as a performer "who not only sang impressively but danced charmingly as well" (Broadway World Review). During her time at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, she has collaborated with choreographer and dancer Seán Curran and was a featured dancer in their production of Rigoletto.
In concert, Ms. Niles was the soloist for the New York City premiere of Gavrillin's Russian cantata "Chimes" with Cantori New York, conducted by Mark Shapiro at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York. At Carnegie Hall, Ms. Niles has performed with MasterVoices in Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt under the baton of Ted Sperling, in a conglomeration of performing and visual arts. A lover of baroque style and influence, Ms. Niles performed with Juilliard’s Historical Performance ensemble Juilliard415, singing Aminta in Handel’s cantata Aminta e Fillide, conducted by William Christie at The Morgan Library & Museum. In her hometown in Virginia, Ms. Niles was the soprano soloist for Rutter's Requiem with orchestra and chorus, and was a soloist in the Concert Against Hate in affiliation with the Anti-Defamation League at the Kennedy Center, conducted by Emil de Cou.
An active collaborator in her community, her Juilliard graduation recital featured new works by composers Jack Frerer and Manuel Sosa, and chamber music by Handel, Faure, and Strauss, with musicians from the Juilliard School. With Columbia University School of the Arts, Ms. Niles served as music director, as well as composed original music and performed on violin, and performed the role of Amiens in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, directed by Mikhaela Mahony. A lover of chamber music, Ms. Niles performed Schoenberg's Second String Quartet as part of Juilliard Chamberfest 2018 coached by Fred Sherry and Sanford Sylvan, and revived the piece with Juilliard musicians in recital the following year. In the summer of 2017, Ms. Niles commissioned The Opposite of Loneliness: A Chamber Piece (Wenzelberg) for string quartet and soprano, with text excerpted from Marina Keegan's poem Bygones. A project close to her heart, the chamber piece was debuted in March of 2018 in dedication to Ms. Keegan and her legacy (see PROJECTS for more information). In recital, Ms. Niles performed Liza Lehmann's In a Persian Garden vocal quartet, coached by Craig Rutenberg at Chautauqua Institution, and prepared a recital with composer Ben Moore, in which she premiered one of his pieces, Between the Lights.
Other world premieres include Try to Praise the Mutilated World (Sebastien Zinca), Cantata for Peace (Benjamin Wenzelberg), Paper Money and On the Last Morning (Scott Etan Feiner), and Invictus (Webster Gadbois). In 2017, Ms. Niles was a part of the inaugural performance of the Opera-Composer Collaborative Project, performing the world premiere of the opera scene entitled Vulnerable City, composed by Yihan Chen to the libretto by Liuyu "Ivy" Chen. Collaborating with the visual arts as well as performing arts, Ms. Niles was part of an interdisciplinary collaboration with composer Manuel Sosa and painter Laura Karetzky in the project In-Communication/In-Transit, a unique combination of painting and sound, which was put on exhibit at BRIC’s Project Room in Brooklyn, New York.
In the operatic canon, Ms. Niles performed Adina in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore with City Lyric Opera directed by Jessica Harika and conducted by Jonathan Heaney, and with Chautuauqua Institution conceived by Brooklyn-based director John Giampietro and conducted by Miloš Repický. An actor as well as a singer, Ms. Niles performed Julie Jordan in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, and The Narrator in The Student Prince at Chautauqua Institution. In 2018, Ms. Niles was selected to study at Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Vocal Academy, where she worked with Stephen King.
Formerly, Ms. Niles studied at Chautauqua Institution with Marlena Malas, and at the Academie Internationale d’ete de Nice in France with Lorraine Nubar and pianist Dalton Baldwin. Award winning both locally and nationally, she has won awards from Sigma Alpha Iota Philanthropies Inc., the Washington D.C. chapter of The National Society of Arts and Letters, The George London Foundation, the National Hal Leonard Art Song Competition, and Virginia Lions Club Bland competition. In 2015, she was a National YoungArts Foundation Classical Voice Finalist.