Anderson began taking singing lessons when she was eleven. She entered the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions at the age of seventeen and became the youngest person ever to be a finalist in that competition.
She took a standard university education, majoring in French at Yale, where she graduated with honors. Then she went to New York, determined that ". . . if in two years' time I was not famous I would go to law school." She says she ran out of money in nine months and at that point got stubborn about it. "I decided I would be a singer if it killed me."
She studied singing privately with Robert Leonard. She made her stage debut as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute. (She has been associated with the role ever since; it is her voice that sings the arias for that character in Milos Forman's film Amadeus.) In 1981, she was a Richard Tucker Career Grant winner, then was invited to sing Rossini's Semiramide at the Rome Opera in 1982. Her seemingly effortless vocal production, exceptional agility, and ringing clear tone, plus a commanding and natural-looking stage presence made the appearance a success, leading to engagements in virtually every major opera house of Europe and the United States. Anderson is also the first non-Italian to win the annual Bellini d'Oro vocal prize. She became known not only for her portrayals of standard coloratura parts -- in operas such as Rigoletto, I Lombardi, La donna del lago, I Capuleti ed i Montecchi, and La Sonnambula. Her acclaimed roles include Rosalinde in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus; Desdemona in Otello; and Gilda in Rigoletto (her Metropolitan Opera debut role, singing opposite Pavarotti). She became known for her willingness to undertake unusual roles for recordings, such as Dafne in Il Nascimento dell'aurora by Albinoni (Erato, 1983); Madeleine in Le Postillon de Longjumeau by Adam (EMI, 1985); and Eudoxie in La Juive by Halévy (1986, 1989 Philips). She was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to record the role of Cunegonde in his definitive edition of Candide. June Anderson has appeared on national television in Metropolitan Opera opening galas, on an Arts and Entertainment Leonard Bernstein birthday concert, in the Bernstein Tribute by John Williams and the Boston Pops, and in a Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Semiramide. In the docu-drama The Queen of Song, she portrayed the legendary nineteenth-century singer Adelina Patti.