May 3, 2019 / 5:24 PM / 21 days ago

U.S. opera features debut performance by transgender singer in lead role

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The opera “Don Giovanni” opens on Friday at America’s Tulsa Opera with a transgender woman appearing for the first time in a principal operatic role in the United States, organizers said.

Lucia Lucas, a baritone, stars in the title role of Mozart’s masterpiece, capping off the 71st season of the well-respected opera company in the Midwestern state of Oklahoma.

An American, Lucas lives in Germany and has appeared in Europe but never landed a starring U.S. role.

“I was blown away by her voice. It was astonishing, the power and the gravity and the beauty,” said Tobias Picker, a composer and the artistic director who cast Lucas in the role.

Any concern about a transgender woman appearing in a conservative “red” state was fleeting, Picker told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Everyone has welcomed her,” he said. “I was concerned that there might be some backlash.

“It’s a very red state, but there’s quite a lot of misconception about people in red states. A red state doesn’t mean they don’t accept people who are different from them.”

Lucas was saving her voice for her performance and unavailable for an interview, an opera spokeswoman said.

Her website reads: “Lucia Lucas spent so long trying to play a boy/man in real life, she is adept at playing men and is always happy to play a man onstage (so long as she doesn’t have to play one in real life).

“She welcomes the majority of her work to be masculine presenting and her personal life to remain personal,” it said.

The role of Don Giovanni is one of the most demanding in opera, Picker said.

“We could have just put a picture of her on our website presenting masculine and not discussed it, and nobody would have ever known,” he said. “That wouldn’t have been honest or fair.”

“Some people probably don’t care. They’re not interested in opera anyway,” he added. “People that go to the opera, I think they’re interested.”

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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