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23 June 2014, 14:30
Soprano Tamar Iveri has been released from her contract with the opera company after a letter was posted on her Facebook profile likening gay and lesbian people to excrement.
Opera Australia described the views as 'unconscionable' in a statement released today, and confirmed the singer will no longer be performing in the Sydney production of Verdi's Otello in July and August. Iveri has apologised for the views, claiming the original message, posted 18 months ago, was written by her husband who was using her account at the time.
The comments prompted a backlash on social media, with thousands of opera lovers threatening to boycott Opera Australia and cancel their subscriptions. Major sponsors including Quantas and Mazda also came under fire for supporting the company when they had not dismissed the singer.
Iveri released a statement today explaining her motivation for resigning: "As difficult as it has been to come to this decision, I do so out out of consideration for the tranquillity of my colleagues and for the success of the production," she said.
"By withdrawing, I wish to insure that the performances take place undisturbed by any further controversy. I do not want such an important artistic event to be marred by any problem which, however unintentionally, has developed because of my presence in the cast.
I also must say that I am immensely saddened and hurt by the campaign which is now being mounted against me. I have never been prejudiced against anyone, whether for religious, or racial reasons, or for any other kind of prejudice including those regarding sexual preference. I abhor prejudice in any form altogether. I have been performing in an art form that includes thousands of gay people on both sides of the stage, and there is no one who can come forward and claim that I have ever exhibited any such prejudice against them. I have said before and say here again that the words attributed to me were not my own, and that I therefore cannot take personal responsibility for them."
Shortly after announcing her retirement, Iveri changed her Facebook profile picture and cover photo to designs featuring the words 'peace, love, harmony'.