Opera singer Lucia Lucas is set to lead Mozart’s Don Giovanni in May 2019 at the Tulsa Opera in Oklahoma, marking her first principal role in the U.S. She’s also breaking sound barriers as a transgender performer.
“Lucia Lucas’ appearance here will mark the first time a trans woman has performed a principal role on the operatic stage in the United States,” says Tobias Picker, Tulsa Opera’s artistic director, in a statement.
The 37-year-old baritone will play the male title role, described by Tulsa Opera as “sexy, magnetic and totally irresistible.”
“In one way, this is exciting,” Lucas tells NBC News. “But in another way, I hope it’s not too exciting. I just want to keep doing my job in how I’ve always done it.”
“I hope it states that there is a [theater] company and there are people who really believe it comes down to talent,” adds Tulsa Opera CEO Greg Weber. “If you have the talent, you need to be heard, and you need to be represented.”
Born in California but currently based in Germany as a member of the Staatstheatre Karlsruhe, Lucas has performed steadily across Europe for the past decade.
“It’s important to note that I did not choose Tulsa, they chose me,” says Lucas, noting that she has auditioned in New York City since 2015. “It was not until the beginning of this year, 2018, that I was actually hired by an American company.”
Lucas believes that the conservative U.S. opera world fears that fewer people will attend a performance with a transgender person in the principal role. “What if more people come?” she asks. “What if there are more people who say, ‘I don’t really see much opera, but I would love to see what this is about.’”
The singer, who began transitioning in 2014 with the support of her wife, notes that hormone replacement therapy has had no effect on her voice. While testosterone lowers the voice, estrogen does not necessarily have the opposite effect.
“If my voice did rise because of it, that would be fantastic, because that would be easier for me,” she says. “I end up playing a lot of men on stage, still. Opera is a very, very specific form, and I can’t just easily sing up at the top of my register.”
“I have studied how to be a boy for almost 30 years, and I will continue to bring that knowledge to my male roles on stage,” Lucas writes on her professional website. “I understand that most of my roles will be men. I have no problem playing them, as long as I don’t have to play them offstage anymore.”
“The media response to my story has shown that my personal journey augments, rather than diminishes, the public perception of my work,” she continues.
”The opera world is enriched by its growing diversity.