Ottawa's Opera Lyra has terminated the contract of a singer slated to appear in its production of Puccini's Tosca which opens in two weeks time.
American bass Valerian Ruminski's contract was terminated following comments posted on his own Facebook page about an individual he encountered on public transportation. Ruminksi posted a picture of a man with jewel-encrusted fingernails and made fun of his appearance. Ruminski followed up with other comments saying the man was "parading his choices," had "deficiencies" and "ego issues." Screenshots of the comments soon circulated on social media. The comments came as Capital Pride celebrations were taking place in Ottawa.
Opera Lyra responded quickly saying it was proud of its relationships with the diverse populations in the Ottawa area.
"Persons employed by Opera Lyra, including short-term cast members, are expected to contribute to good community relations," wrote general director Jeep Jeffries on Sunday. "Respectful behaviour towards others is an essential part of this."
Mr. Ruminski, who has worked in Ottawa for nine years, issued an apology through his publicist late on Monday:
My statement was hurtful and I have realized that what I have said was cruel and not in keeping with the way I generally feel about people and have interacted with people in the past. It was an unfortunate spur of the moment thoughtless comment that I need not have said and should not have said. I apologize and regret any harm this has caused to any and all parties affected by my comments.
Opera Lyra will announce a replacement singer "shortly" to play the role of Sacristan. Tosca runs at the National Arts Centre from Sept. 6-13.