Following their honeymoon in Italy Veronica Dunne and Peter McCarthy settled into their home on Dublin’s Bushy Park Road. However, Ronnie’s commuting between Dublin and London to fulfil her Covent Garden contract became more difficult with the arrivals of son Peter in 1954 and daughter Veronica (Judy) in 1956.
Ronnie’s farewell to the Royal Opera came in 1958 when she was heard as Mimi (La bohème) and Micaëla (Carmen) as well as Blanche (Dialogues des Carmélites) in the first performances in Britain of Poulenc’s haunting opera on the sisters’ martyrdom at Compiègne during the French Revolution.
The chance for Ronnie to appear in North America had come early in 1955 when she joined the specially-formed Irish festival singers on a 15-week tour of the US and Canada. Under the direction of formidable pianist Kitty O’Callaghan, the group began the strenuous trip in St John’s Newfoundland and included New York’s Carnegie Hall in its series of concerts.
Besides rearing her family, Ronnie continued to honour her singing commitments and in September 1959 commemorated the 200th anniversary of the death of Handel with performances of his oratorios Jephtha, Messiah, Samson and Solomon in a number of countrywide venues.
Earlier that year she undertook the role of Eily in Benedict’s The Lily of Killarney for Kilrush Operatic Society and she would return to that company on a number of occasions. Not content with singing in Ireland, Ronnie Dunne made a number of appearances with Welsh National Opera including Tosca in Swansea and Marenka (The Bartered Bride) and Elvira (Don Giovanni) in Cardiff.
Among her plethora of concert and recital engagements Ronnie was the soprano soloist in the RTÉ commissioned Brian Boydell cantata A Terrible Beauty is Born for the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising and, at almost a moment’s notice, she replaced the indisposed Heather Harper in the first performance here of Britten’s War Requiem in Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in April 1967.
Ronnie’s last operatic appearance brought her stunning portrayal for Opera Ireland of the dowager countess in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades in 2002 and for which she had lessons in Russian. Her final goodbye to the stage came as Grandma Tzeitel in Lyric Opera’s production of The Fiddler on the Roof at the Gaiety in 2011.
In 1981 Charles Haughey invited Ronnie to join the first board of the National Concert Hall (NCH). Serving three five-year terms she entered wholeheartedly into fundraising at home and abroad for the Hall’s organ that was launched in 1991.
There was further fundraising for her own triennial International Singing Competition, which has earned global respect since its establishment in 1995.
Ronnie Dunne began her long teaching career in Dublin’s Municipal School in 1961. She later moved to the Leinster School and the RIAM as well as continuously giving lessons at home in Bushy Park Road. It would take several columns to do justice to her service to her students to whom she was dedicated and devoted. Ronnie died on April 5, 2021 aged 93. May her soul rest in peace.