Opera singer, professor and Winter Park/Maitland Observer columnist Louis Roney dead at 96

The Winter Park resident enjoyed a 40-year career as a leading operatic tenor, and helped grow and support the arts throughout Central Florida.

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  • | 3:43 p.m. November 7, 2017
Louis Roney wrote a column for the Winter Park/Maitland Observer since the paper's inception in 1989.
Louis Roney wrote a column for the Winter Park/Maitland Observer since the paper's inception in 1989.
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Louis Roney, internationally acclaimed opera star, died on Sunday, November 5 at his home in Winter Park, Florida. He was 96. Born in Atlanta, Louis Roney was raised in Winter Park. He was the 1937 football captain at Winter Park High School, and a 1942 Honor Graduate of Harvard College. Mr. Roney served some five years as a commended gunnery officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II.


He was, for 40 years, a leading operatic tenor in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Munich, Lisbon, Italy, and Canada, and was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera and many other U.S. opera companies. Mr. Roney was engaged as soloist by such symphony orchestras as San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Montreal, Amsterdam, Paris, Florence, and Vancouver. His managements were Columbia Artists Management, Sol Hurok and Ballhausen Agentur.


His career highlights include starring in two movies of opera in Paris and Montreal; his debut at 27, as Cavaradossi in "Tosca" with Dmitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic; as the first American leading tenor to sing in the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Italy's greatest opera festival in 1957; as Jesus opposite Regine Crespin in the American premiere of Massenet's "Marie Magdeleine" in New York's Lincoln Center in 1976; and as Radames in the largest ever "Aida" in the Hartford Arena in 1981. For years, Roney starred as Leading Tenor in 12 major French and 21 German Opera Houses.


Mr. Roney and his wife, Joy, founded, and for 17 years headed, Orlando's Festival of Orchestras, bringing world-class international orchestras to Central Florida. Mr. Roney was writer of over 2,000 published columns of his "cultural commentary", PLAY ON! In 2012, the Florida Press Association presented his column, PLAY ON! an award for writing the “best column of the year.” He was for 24 years Distinguished Professor of Music and Artist in Residence at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. As Jesus in Beethoven's "Christ on the Mount of Olives," he made his eighth solo appearance with the Florida Symphony Orchestra and the Bach Festival Choir.


Louis Roney has been honored by the Orlando Chamber of Commerce and has received Proclamations from the Orlando City Council and several Orlando Mayors as a “Hero of the Arts.” Roney has letters of commendation from Harvard's President, Governors of Florida and Massachusetts, four Secretaries of State, several United States Senators and Congressmen for service to music, in Florida and to the nation. Winter Park honored him with a “Louis Roney Day.”


In 2004, a film made and archived by the State of Florida Alliance for the Arts in Tallahassee honored Louis Roney in perpetuity for his long life as an outstanding Florida international performing artist and cultural innovator in performance and education.


In 2012, Roney was honored with the highest award given an artist in the State of Florida when he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame for significant contribution to the Arts in Florida with a plaque on the wall of the State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. From Berlin, conductor Ara Khachaturian said, “I consider Louis Roney the last legendary tenor of the Golden Age of Opera.”


Mr. Roney leaves his wife of 37 years, Joy, of Winter Park, sister, Anne Marie Gary of Atlanta, daughter Beverley Huskes, and grandson Eric Harrison, both of Huntington, Connecticut, and daughter Madeliene Eckert of Silvermine, Connecticut.


Those wishing to pay their respects are invited to an open house to be held at the Roney residence Saturday, Nov.18, from 3 to 5 p.m.


In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Louis’ name to Opera Orlando, at operaorlando.org, or Opera Orlando, P.O. Box 533974, Orlando, FL 32853-3974 or call: (407) 512-1900.


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