Roy Aaron’s creative endeavors went well beyond his long-time profession, journalism. After leaving daily newspaper work, the prolific writer went on to pen a book, plays and operas. As an artist Roy combined his passion for social justice with journalistic flair to educate audiences through mesmerizing literary works.
Roy Aarons had a lifelong love of music, and often invited colleagues and friends to his home in California for sing-along and full-costume opera parties. Everyone joined in on Broadway show tunes, but Roy would solo occasionally with a sad ballad like Leonard Cohen’s “The Famous Blue Raincoat” or the heartbreaking aria “La Fleur Bleue.” “The guy was enthusiastic … and he was just fun to be around,” said Harry Harris, a longtime Oakland Tribune police reporter.
In the latter part of his career, Roy turned to opera, writing the libretto for “Monticello.” Composed by Glenn Paxton, “Monticello” portrays the love affair between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings. LA Theatre Works produced the original work in 2000. Roy felt the story, then dismissed by most historians as a fable, mirrored racial issues that continued to prevail in American society. He thoroughly researched the affair and found ample evidence to conclude that the story was true. A few years later mainstream historians reached the same conclusion; several books about the relationship have since been published.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Roy wrote the libretto for “Sara’s Diary, 9/11,” an opera also composed by Paxton. Actually a song cycle, this work is a poignant fictional account of a pregnant woman experiencing deeply mixed emotions after losing her husband in the Sept. 11 tragedy. “Aarons’ text had so much feeling in it,” said Paxton. “It ran the gamut from grief and anger and sorrow, until finally something clicked in Sara’s mind.”
“Sara’s Diary, 9/11” premiered at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center on Sept. 8, 2003, the year before Roy’s death, in commemoration of the unprecedented national disaster.