‘Phantom’ on Broadway and Met opera star Janinah Burnett to perform at EMU’s annual Gala Concert

Eastern Mennonite University’s Gala Concert has always been a musical tour de force, involving all ensembles on campus and often bringing in special guests. But the 2019 event will no doubt be memorable.

Metropolitan Opera star Janinah Burnett, currently appearing in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, will be the featured artist. The acclaimed soprano will perform classic arias of Puccini and Verdi, as well as jazz showstoppers by Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington, accompanied by the university orchestra and jazz band. 

The concert, themed “Rutter, Rhapsody and Radiance,” is 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, in Lehman Auditorium. A pay-what-you-will admission benefits EMU music scholarships for students.

Burnett says she’s “thrilled to be joining EMU for the gala,” and is bringing some of her favorites to the occasion, including “Sempre Libera” from Verdi’s La Traviata, the jazz selection “Almighty God” from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts followed by “a hot rendition” of “How High the Moon.”

Music professor David Berry.

“Ms. Burnett’s presence makes this a concert event unlike any we have ever had at EMU,” said Professor David Berry, who chairs the music department and will perform as well. “We’re fortunate to have a musician of her caliber sharing her immense talents on the same stage with our student musicians.”

Beginning her professional performance career as Mimì in Baz Luhrmann’s presentation of Puccini’s La Bohème on Broadway, Burnett received tremendous acclaim winning the Los Angeles Stage Alliance’s “Ovation Award” with a record 82 consecutive sold-out shows. She joined the Metropolitan Opera in 2008 for their productions of Carmen and La Bohème, and has since returned for Parsifal, Le Nozze di Figaro, La Rondine, The Enchanted Island, Iphigénie en Tauride, Elektra and Manon. She recently sang in a revival presentation of the opera Voodoo by the prolific Harlem Renaissance composer, Harry Lawrence Freeman.

Berry was an undergraduate student at the Eastman School of Music when Burnett was in graduate school. The friends also performed together in New York City with the Harlem Chamber Players.

WMRA public radio’s Kimberlea Daggy will host the evening, which includes a full slate of talented professional musicians on faculty, as well as many student musicians and others from the local community.

Professor James Richardson in concert at the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival.

Professor James Richardson, baritone, will perform music from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and the University Choir will present John Rutter’s hauntingly beautiful “Requiem.” Berry, on the piano, and the EMU Wind Ensemble will conclude the evening with a rousing presentation of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. 

The concert is sponsored by BB&T.

More on Janinah Burnett

Currently making appearances as “Carlotta Giudicelli” in the iconic musical theater masterpiece Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Burnett made her MET debut as Bianca in La Rondine. In addition to Voodoo, recent performances include singing in Victory Hall Opera’s inaugural presentation of Der Rosenkavalier as Sophie, for which she was featured on the cover of the Arts and Style section of the Washington post. 

Performances on operatic stages internationally and domestically in various starring roles include: theThéâtre du Châtelet in Paris; the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma; Spoleto Festival U.S.A.; the Michigan Opera Theatre; with operas in Arizona, Baltimore, Manitoba, Cleveland, Nashville and Columbus and in concert with The Israel Symphony Orchestra in Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion with Mo. Asher Fisch.

She has performed in solo musical performances with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in their opening gala; Leonard Bernstein’s Mass with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; debuting the role of Harriet Tubman in the World Premier presentation of Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Road to Freedom with American Opera Projects and singing Marguerite in Faust with Opera Toledo.

Burnett was named Artist of the Year at Syracuse Opera for her revered role debut as Leïla in Les Pêcheurs de Perles which she later reprised at Opera Carolina. A former member of the sister group to Three Mo’ Tenors entitled Three Mo’ Divas, Burnett gave two performances of her own jazz arrangements with her band entitled The Janinah Burnet Quartet at the Cell Theater in NYC and gave a self titled, sold out solo jazz show at the Metropolitan Room. She is a featured singer in the Spike Lee film Red Hook Summer, has performed on the Tony Awards, and is featured on the La Bohéme on Broadway cast recording. 

Burnett is currently producing performances of her own writings with art songs, freedom songs and spirituals entitled I, Too Sing America: A Lament for the Fallen which seeks to provide quality performances rooted in education, activism, committed artistic expression, and healing. 

With thanks to major sponsor

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