Valerian Ruminski has made his mark in roles such as this one with the Ottawa Lyric Opera, but the Palm Springs resident's latest CD shows his love of pop music.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY VALERIAN RUMINSKI
With the pandemic in full swing and his opera appearances canceled, opera singer Valerian Ruminski managed to deliver a winning trifecta this year by launching two new CDs and reconnecting to his family roots.
Prior to his move to Palm Springs this year, Ruminski garnered many accolades as a true basso cantante — his voice is as bold as it is powerful. The Buffalo, New York, native has performed with stellar opera companies nationally and internationally, from The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and Dallas Opera to Opera Ireland, Opera de Montreal and Opera de Monte Carlo. He is also the founder and general director of Nickel City Opera in Buffalo, and garnered an award from Opera America for 10 years of dedicated service.
A move to Calabasas found the singer frequently visiting the Coachella Valley, meeting with the Palm Springs Opera Guild to explore collaborations. Eventually, Valerian would call Palm Springs home. He shares more about his sojourn into pop music, and life in the Coachella Valley with Palm Springs Life.
What drew you to Palm Springs?
I am drawn to the heat. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I was raised in Buffalo. I am a heat sponge because I was in blizzards and lived in 20 below zero temperatures for many years. So, I like being outside here. I like the feel of the area — there’s something Old West and very Americana about it all.
What makes Palm Springs unique to the creative experience?
There is something very elemental about the desert and the Valley is very arts-oriented. It just makes me want to become more involved in the arts community in the coming year.
You’ve been involved with music since you were a teen, exploring pop music before going on to train as an opera singer. How was it for you switching gears creatively?
It was like blowing the dust off of an old baseball bat. This was all about allowing myself to be as free with my pop voice as I am with my opera singing, and to let that voice reassert itself and come out. It was liberating. I had not written songs in such quantity for many years, but it wasn’t the music that surprised me, it was the lyrics. I was surprised that I had so many ideas for lyrics and that they came so easily.
Valerian Ruminski was the founder and artistic director of the Nickel City Opera in Buffalo, New York.
Were there lyrics, particularly on All of Us, that surprised you?
That all came from some powerful emotional things that happened to me this year, and it had nothing to do with the pandemic. I was adopted when I was seven months old. Before my mother passed away eight years ago, she encouraged me to look for my biological parents. I tried but nothing came of it. This year, at the age of 53, I took a DNA test and waited for the results. In March, when the pandemic hit, I received a call from an uncle who had a friend helping out with the family tree. Apparently, the guy was some kind of genetic sleuth.
What did you discover?
He found my parents. He found four woman on the family tree and told me that one of them was his mother. Then he found a guy who was looking for his birth son and had named one of those other four women as being the mother of his child. The guy doing the research said, “This guy is related to you.” So, he got a hold of the guy, uploaded his DNA on another site, and the very next day I had my father, my mother, three sisters, two brothers, nine nieces and nephews. I mean … I’ve been an only child all of my life.
So, this was big.
Very big. And then all during the summer, I was going through these mood swings [adjusting to things], and getting to know my sisters, my brothers and then my birth mother — I met her in September. Now, I have two parents that want to be in my life. When I was sitting there from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. almost every night on the computer working on music, I think there was a subconscious ball of emotions that may have influenced the CDs. I started writing things organically. I would sit down to create but I had no concept of what I was going to work on for the night.
Valerian Ruminski has explored working with the Palm Springs Opera Guild.
Did you know the CD was going to be called All of Us, or did that title come from your experience of finding your family?
That was one of the early title tracks. I was literally in tears working on it — it just kept getting bigger and bigger. It’s the biggest song on the CD. As I was working on the music, it’s as if the lyrics found me. I didn’t set out to write a song about world peace.
What has been your biggest lessons in 2020?
It’s that wonderful, magical things can come from tragedy. For many of us, it has been a horrible year, however for me, it has been productive and that surprised me. Especially in a year when a dark cloud has hovered over all of us — the operative phrase and the title of my CD. This year allowed me to go back in time, write some new music, find a family, and move to Palm Springs. I’ve been lucky.
Songs From Inside and All of Us are streaming on all platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Pandora and iHeart Radio. Learn more about Valerian Ruminski at valerianruminskibass.com.