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Statues at the Olivier Awards 2018 with Mastercard (Photo: David Levene)

Statues at the Olivier Awards with Mastercard (Photo: David Levene)

Karla Burns dies at 66

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 14 June 2021, Last Updated 14 June 2021

Operatic singer and actress Karla Burns passed away last week at the age of 66.

Born in Wichita, Kansas in the 1950s, Karla performed internationally in theatres and on television, acting and singing. She performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, the Teatro Real, Cairo Opera House, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

She found particular fame as Queenie in the Houston Grand Opera’s revival of musical Show Boat. Going on to take this production to Broadway, Burns won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony Award.

She came to play Queenie in productions all around the world, and became the first Black performer to receive a Laurence Olivier Award, winning for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical for the 1991 production at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Later, she became known for her one-woman show, Hi-Hat Hattie, playing Hattie McDaniel who was herself the first Black actor to win an Oscar. She was also a regular actor in New York’s Shakespeare In The Park.



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