Alumnae: Alumnae Profiles

Alumnae Profiles: Janinah Burnett

"Janinah Burnett can do it all. She’s performed for Oprah and recently sang a lead role in Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer.” She describes her self as a flower-child. We describe her singing as incredible." Excerpt from

"It was at Spelman College, a historically Black college in Atlanta, where Janinah Burnett received the sort of education that can be traced to her current standing as a soprano for the Metropolitan Opera."

"At Spelman, a lot of my peers were classically trained," Burnett recalls. "It was the first time I had heard anyone sing like that, especially African Americans like me. I wanted to sing that way. I asked, 'How do you make that sound?

She soon learned how, and Charlotte audiences were able to hear the results for themselves when Burnett headlined Opera Carolina's production of Georges Bizet's The Pearl Fishers at Belk Theater."  Excerpted from

Biographical Sketch

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, this self proclaimed flower child considers herself a citizen of the world. By 2014, Ms. Burnett will have appeared in over 250 shows and performing in over 30 cities in the United States and abroad. 


Ms. Burnett was born to a poet mother Imani Constance Burnett and her father is Jazz drummer Carl Burnett. Under the influence of them both, their only child quickly flourished in vocal training performing in her first concert in the fifth grade and she continued performing through her undergraduate years at Spelman College and through graduate school.


Classically trained in Opera, Ms. Burnett joined the Metropolitan Opera roster in 2008 for their productions of Carmen and La Bohème, and since returned for Le Nozze di Figaro, La Rondine, and Iphigenie en Tauride.  Ms. Burnett will debut at the Metropolitan Opera In January 2013 as Bianca in La Rondine.

Noted engagements from the past two seasons include Lucy in Treemonisha in her debut at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris; Margru in Amistad at the Spoleto Festival U.S.A.; Micaëla in Carmen with the Michigan Opera Theatre and Arizona Opera; Mimí in La Bohème with Arizona Opera and Nashville Opera; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Opera Cleveland; Claire in William Grant Still’s Troubled Island in concert with New York City Opera; her role debut as Leila in Les Pêcheurs des Perles at the Syracuse Opera; and Bess in Porgy and Bess at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Cape Town Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Grand Rapids, and in concert with The Israel Symphony Orchestra in Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion with Mo. Asher Fisch. 

Burnett was just named Artist of the Year in 2011 at Syracuse Opera. She was also a member of the sister group to Three Mo’ Tenors entitled Three Mo’ Divas and toured to Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan with the New York Harlem Productions (NYHP) company performing the roles of Clara and Bess in Porgy and Bess. 

During her time at Spelman, Ms. Burnett performed with Ray Charles and with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra featuring Dr. Billy Taylor. She also sang at Oprah' Winfrey's  personal  birthday celebration at Maya Angelou's home and opened for Vanessa Rubin at the Schomburg Center while she was a member of the Spelman Jazz Ensemble. ​

In 2012, Ms. Burnett made her movie debut in Spike Lee's 'Red Hook Summer' in which she plays a widely featured church singer. She also performed in the Opening Night Gala for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater along with Anika Noni Rose, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Jessye Norman. 

 Visit Janinah Burnett's website to