A Historic Debut

Amos Lassen

Lucia Lucas, the first transgender woman ever to perform as Don Giovanni in a professional opera, makes her historic debut in one of America’s most conservative states. Lucia Lucas is an actor and a baritone opera singer who is also transgender. Growing up in Sacramento, California Lucia studied horn and voice at California State University and then graduated from the Chicago College Of Performing Arts. She moved Germany in 2009 and decided to transition from male to female. This process began in July 2014 when Lucia took estrogen and antiandrogens and underwent female feminization surgery the following September. In 2016 she finally underwent her gender reassignment surgery. While this film is about a transgender person, that aspect of Lucia’s life is a just a part of the story. This is a film about the search for identity and her strength to be an actor and opera singer. That she is transgender is only a part of the story.

Director James Kicklighter prefers to look at Lucia’s present rather than her past, something we have already seen many times in movies about transgender people.  Here is Lucia as she is today. We do not need to know who she was in the past. She is filled with talent and immediately draws us in. Like everyone, she has problems of feeling secure but we really see more of her charisma than her insecurities. Lucia owes a great deal to the man who mentored her, Tobias Pickens who chose her to play Don Giovanni in Mozart’s opera. We see their closeness in some very tender moments here especially when Lucia speaks to Pickens about her family. It is what the two share that propels the film and it is gorgeous.

The film begins about a month before opening night and there is concern that ticket sales are slow. As Lucia and her circle discuss ways to get people to come to the opera, she cannot help but wonder if he is the reason that sales are slow. She knows that her decision to transition was the right move and she believed that her being the first transgender opera diva would give opera a needed hit in the arm. She had hoped that the publicity about her would bring new opera lovers forward. But there is something else. “Don Giovanni” is being performed in Tulsa Oklahoma and Oklahoma is a state known for its conservatism. She can’t help but wonder if true opera-lovers will come or if she will be on display as a strange attraction. Her nerves keep us in suspense as we see how she feels.

Mozart’s wonderful music is heard throughout the film as we watch a deeply personal story come to life. It is as if we are too part of the creative process of bringing the event to life. With the focus on Lucia’s exquisite voice, we forget that she is transgender and this is what makes this film so special. We simply see Lucia as Lucia— a person with extraordinary talent.

Picker cast Lucia on her talent but he also knows this choice was bound to be controversial.Lucia becomes Don Giovanni, a man with both masculine and feminine sides and as we see her rehearse, we can tell that she totally inhabits the role. The confidence we see in her in other parts of the film comes through in her depiction of the opera’s protagonist. She is filled with charm and we know that she will succeed wonderfully. I cannot help be proud of her accomplishments and can easily see that we will be hearing more about her. This brilliant film brings together art, talent and a transgender person who is about to give a whole new look at who we are and what we can do.