Opera Lyra fires singer Valerian Ruminski over Facebook post
Singer later says he didn't know man he mocked online was a drag queen
Opera singer Valerian Ruminski has been fired from an upcoming Opera Lyra production in Ottawa after mocking a man on Facebook for decorating his fingernails over the weekend.
Ruminski posted a photo of a man on an OC Transpo bus with jewel-encrusted fingernails, saying "Look at the stupid nails this moron had on while taking a bus in Ottawa. I guess he needs diamond-studded nails to make up for his face."
In further posts that were screencapped and shared on social media, the American bass singer said the man was "parading his choices" and "people with issues do things to get noticed."
The incident happened during Capital Pride celebrations in Ottawa and involved Samnang Tep, who performs as drag queen Miss Jade London.
"I almost broke down in tears to be honest, I didn't think someone would be that hurtful on social media — especially from a celebrity," he said.
"I felt so hurt, I felt violated, having my picture taken without my knowledge and then being bashed about it… being basically called ugly, having my nails compensate for that, being called a stupid moron, nobody deserves to hear that especially if it's not being told to their face."
Opera director 'disappointed and appalled'
Opera Lyra general director Jeep Jeffries said Ruminiski has been "relieved" of his "small but important" role in Puccini’s Tosca in September.
"I was disappointed and appalled, to be honest," he said in an interview on CBC Radio’s All in a Day.
Ruminski has since posted a statement on his website, saying he’s had many gay teachers and contemporaries throughout his career and that complaining about the world on Facebook makes him feel better.
"I sat on a bus last week and I saw a man with 10 diamonds glued to his fingernails. I thought it was a bit over the top. I did not know who he was, To me it did not matter if he was gay or straight. I simply objected to the flambouyance (sic) and unneccessary accoutrements on his fingers," the statement says.
"I didn’t take the time to pause and think and consider that we are all special and that this person was different in a way that was unique to everyone else around us. I am an opera singer. He, as I learned, is a drag queen. The two of us are not too far apart, I guess.
"I am sorry I didn’t say hello before flash judging him. Certainly I regret the backlash and hullabaloo after my posting. I never bashed him for his sexuality. I never would have."
Peter Strummer, who has performed the role Ruminski was to portray, has been hired to fill his place.
Jeffries said he’d have to be convinced Ruminski had learned from the incident before he’d consider hiring him again.