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Huh? Biological Man Identifies as a Woman But Plays a Man as the First Transgender Lead in U.S. Opera

Lucia Lucas is the first transgender person to play a lead role in a U.S. opera, performing the title role in Don Giovanni at the Tulsa Opera on May 3 and May 5. Although Lucas identifies as a woman, he plays a man, singing the baritone role of Don Giovanni. This casting reveals the truth that transgender identity cannot hide: Lucas is male, not female.

"Making history, Tulsa Opera presents baritone, Lucia Lucas in her American operatic debut as a transgender woman. 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," announced Tobias Picker, artistic director at the Tulsa Opera.

Picker auditioned Lucas for the role in 2018, planning the situation as a "transgender opera," Classic FM reported. He reportedly discovered his clips on YouTube and decided to offer him the role on the spot.

"It's a great dramatic baritone voice," he said. "It has depth of emotion and it has enormous power."

Lucas has performed in opera houses around the world, including Deutsche Oper Berlin, Heidelberg, and Dublin. He sings baritone despite his gender identity.

"Once the voice drops, it can’t go back, although I have trained my speaking voice to be higher than it used to be," Lucas told the Irish Independent in 2017. "I don't have a problem playing men on stage, because I manage to keep my career and private life separate. I’m always travelling, so I get to go to new places where I can be an advocate and talk to people."

This case is illustrative — not just because it is a transgender "first." Lucas identifies as a woman, but he still has the male biology that led him through puberty and gave him a deep voice. This is a clear case of biology — from his X and Y chromosomes in every cell of his body to the hormones that led him to develop masculine features — winning out over transgender identity.

Ironically, Lucas identifies as a woman but he is playing a man's man. Don Giovanni is a notorious womanizer. This baritone, who adopts stereotypically feminine mannerisms and traits to satisfy a transgender identity, will switch to stereotypically masculine traits on stage.

Lucas can pretend he has a clear separation between "playing male characters" and his female gender identity, but the very fact that he has a powerful baritone voice betrays the truth.

As a baritone singer myself, I'd like to congratulate him. Singing Don Giovanni is a wonderful opportunity. Then again, did this baritone get the role for his singing voice or for his gender identity?

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.