Breakthrough: First US opera role for a trans woman

Breakthrough: First US opera role for a trans woman


norman lebrecht

February 19, 2018

Tulsa Opera are claiming this is the first time a trans woman has taken to the US opera stage.

Announcing its new season, Artistic Director Tobias Picker says: ‘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. In the coming season we will also bring home artists whose stars rose in Tulsa and now shine throughout the world.’

Lucia Lucas will sing Don Giovanni in May 2019.

Read her original interview with Slipped Disc.



  • DrummerMan says:

    One hopes that she was hired strictly on the basis of her talent.

  • YoYo Mama says:

    A breakthrough or a breakdown? Woman-to-“man” voices are oddly affected by the hormones. I tend to suspect this man-to-“woman” must sound like a castrato.

  • AKP says:

    Yoyo Mama – I think the use of quotation marks reveals your prejudices just as much as your judgmental comments do.

  • E.F. Mutton says:

    Wake me when they have a production with some decent nude scenes.

  • Been Here Before says:

    A note to John Borstlap: This is an opportunity to write the opera for an all-transgender cast. The singers born as males can sing soprano and alto parts, while those born as women can sing tenors and basses. This will be such a progressive and revolutionary concept that even those who disdain your tonal approach to composition will be forced to accept it. Clearly a win-win situation for everybody – and for once you will be considered a true avant-garde composer!

  • Doug says:

    I can’t wait for the tour to Pakistan. Might be best to decline any invitation to a rooftop post-performance party.

  • Jory Vinikour says:

    Although I haven’t worked with Lucia in person, she is a top-flight artist. Watch and listen to her in any number of performances (YouTube, etc), and you will hear a terrific baritone, gifted with fearless and compelling stage presence. Bravo, Tobias Picker and Tulsa!!!

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Now I am a bit confused. Are you saying she sounds like a male-baritone, or like a non-transgender female baritone, or something different from either? What are the voice qualities that make her such a terrific baritone?

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    It is truly disappointing to read the vindictive and ignorant comments that underline this article. Were her personal circumstances different, Lucia Lucas would already have, I have little doubt, a career as a Verdi baritone in the biggest international houses.

    How do I know this? Well, I was the agent who contacted Lucia, then singing as a bass in Karlsruhe, with what must have sounded like the mad idea of making a Verdi baritone from a bass-baritone (something that was, in fact, quite normal until 30 years ago).

    She worked hard, her teacher, Camilla Uberschaer, worked hard. I worked hard. And the result was a great singer.

    The comments that underline this article are disappointing as they mirror so many of the remarks I had to endure from industry professionals during my tenure as her manager. I remember one extraordinary conversation with an Operndirektor (who shall remain nameless) that left me wanting to fly to Germany to confront him, to ask him why he had so much trouble being a human being. Or the major house that actually put in writing the threat that my artists would never work in their house again if I insisted on Lucia auditioning.

    It’s the 21st Century, and we are meant to be better than this. We are an industry that presents itself as the ‘moral conscience’ of the world and this is how we behave.

    90% of the time, Lucia Lucas appears on stage in male attire. 90% of the time, the audience will have no clue as to her gender.

    So ask yourself, why do you care? And why do you care so much that you needed to leave the shitty comment?

    • AKP says:

      well said but of course they don’t care, which is why they leave the comments. They are cowardly individuals. The old adage, if you can’t say it to my face, don’t say it at all. I’d be happy to say exactly what I think to the faces of Yoyo Mama and particularly Doug.

    • collin says:

      Thanks for the insightful post.

      There are a lot of trolls hovering over this site who itch to leave comments with the sole purpose of provoking a response. My eyes glaze over those and search out the gems that provide real insight, like Mr. Stafford’s input.

    • David R Osborne says:

      Very well said Domonic, great to hear that you are prepared to confront this rotten prejudice (particularly, though unsurprisingly as expressed by members of our artistic leadership) and truly support your artist.

      I would add that we need more agents like yourself, except of course for the somewhat inconvenient fact that the art-form would be better off without agents.

    • Been Here Before says:

      Dear Mr. Stafford, I would like to remind you that Ms. Lucas is a public figure. She went public with the “transition” and wanted the world to know. So this is a fair game. If you were shocked by some of the comments, then you must have not been at SD before (which I seriously doubt).

      At the time when millions of people around the world are dealing with serious health issues and unable to afford medical treatment, somehow I just can’t think much of a person who voluntarily undergoes a complicated surgical procedure for non-life threatening issues, followed by a multi-year hormonal treatment. Sorry, this is not bigotry but common sense.

      • AKP says:

        Actually not common sense at all but a complete lack of empathy, knowledge and understanding.

        • Been Here Before says:

          There are people dying from cancer, not having access to clean water, not able to find work and feed their children… I will save my empathy for them. Not for a bloke who likes to wear dresses and lipstick.

          If the “transition” was kept private, perhaps I would even have some empathy for Lucas. However, the style and tone of the announcement smells a lot like attention seeking. Sorry, but I am not buying into your PC nonsense.

          • AKP says:

            Yes incredibly easy to keep a transition private! I think people might notice. What a ridiculous notion. I don’t know if you are a troll, an imbecile or a reactionary bigot? I am certainly not buying into your nonsense.

          • Been Here Before says:

            Private meaning not going full throttle with the “making history…” announcement.

            Lacking any valid arguments, you resort to insults and name calling. Anybody having a different opinion is, of course, a troll, imbecile and a reactionary bigot. You just forgot to add epithets racist and sexist to the list.

          • AKP says:

            really – valid arguments? I can now add hypocrite to my description of you. For a start, you have absolutely no idea how the transition is being paid for. And as for insults – I think your comment “a bloke in a dress” might just count as resorting to insults and certainly most of your post falls into the category of “no valid argument”.

          • Been Here Before says:

            You are welcome to add hypocrite to the list, too. Sounds mild compared to the imbecilic reactionary bigot.

            You are right, I have no idea how the procedure is being paid for and I don’t want to know. But I do hope it is not paid by the taxpayers’ money.

            Despite the “transition”, Lucas will retain an XY chromosome for the rest of his/her life. So technically we are still talking about the bloke who likes to wear dresses and lipstick.

          • Dominic Stafford says:

            Some clarification for you:

            1) This engagement was not announced by the artist; but by Tulsa Opera;
            2) the production will likely be conservative. 90% of the time, Lucia appears on stage in male attire;
            3) Lucia’s transition was not funded by the taxpayer;
            4) Lucia did not miss a single day of work during her transition. In fact, she sang performances for other artists who had gone off sick at that time;
            5) what Lucia does with her body is her concern and hers alone. It may come as a shock to you, but you do not hold domain over her physicality;
            6) I am troubled that you spend so much time and thought on this issue, when you cannot distinguish between gender (a categorisation along social or cultural lines) and biological sex (which is defined by chromosomes).

          • Been Here Before says:

            Mr. Stafford, thank you for your reply. What bothers me is not Lucas personally, but:

            a) Apparent attention seeking (would I ever hear of Lucas on the basis of talent alone – most likely not). This is a calculated marketing strategy by both the performer and the opera company utilizing identity politics.

            b) A brigade of self-appointed PC vigilantes ready to immediately label anybody having a different opinion as vile, ignorant and disgusting. I do not approve of some of the comments on SD, but off-color jokes about politicians, composers and performers are a standard here. Thus I do not understand why a transgender performer would be off limits.

            I will not go into a gender theory debate with you now, but suffice to say that Lucas is a public figure who chose to market his/her performance via identity politics. This makes it a fair game not any different than Donald Trump, Katharina Wagner or Georg Friedrich Haas. Personally I do wish both Lucas and you all the very best.

          • Dominic Stafford says:

            Do please stop being quite so silly. If Lucia had not transitioned, you would have almost certainly heard a great deal more about her. She’s a very good singer. Her transition made her much less bookable, in the current climate, not more. The theatre (not the singer) is simply publicising its performances. This is not attention seeking. I would have thought explaining the situation was something they felt was required, rather than a ‘calculated marketing ploy’. This is the American South, and conservative – all Washington Representatives and Senators from Oklahoma are Republican – after all.

            Stop whining because you were corrected. You didn’t make an ‘off-colour joke’, you attempted to ridicule a group of people who are much victimised in society, and you didn’t even have the strength of conviction to do it under your own name.

            There is no ‘gender theory debate’. Gender is a social construct, not a biological delimiter. This is a matter of fact, not an issue up for debate.

            In short, if you can’t take it back, don’t dish it out.

          • Been Here Before says:

            I am not being any sillier than the rest of the commentators here or whining more than you regarding the troubles with booking the client. I am not a public figure and retain my right to participate on this forum anonymously, as well as freely express my opinion. In addition, as opposed to you, I have absolutely no profit motive from promoting any person or agenda. As I said, I personally wish all the very best to you and your client.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Thanks, this is very informative. If she wants to be judged as a male baritone role, she has the chops to sing it, and more-or-less looks appropriate on stage performing these roles (well, as much as opera singers look appropriate anyway), then I don’t understand why anyone would care about the other stuff.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The news: baritone transgender woman Lucia Lucas is going to sing Don Giovanni, and it has been announced as a great happening – that Tulsa Opera is “making history”. As usual, trolls are trolling, and activists are confronting real and imaginary opposition, but nobody has got to the real question: is the Tulsa Opera preparing some kind of Regietheater production that takes advantage of the singer’s gender claim (I know of at least one production where Leporello was presented as a kind of “Übergay”, that possibility could be more deeply exploited) or will Lucia Lucas just dress as the usual serial macho seducer/rapist?

    • Dominic Stafford says:

      Who are the activists? Very strange post. I think I’d file this in the ‘I’m not racist, but…’ file.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        Not at all. My question is quite pertinent, considering the announcement. Do you know anything more specific about that Don Giovanni production?

  • Daphne R. Nipp says:

    “The prevalence of suicide attempts among respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, is 41 percent, which vastly exceeds the 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population who report a lifetime suicide attempt, and is also higher than the 10-20 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults who report ever
    attempting suicide.”

    Hardly the basis for a career in opera or anything else, and much less a justification for the fawning progressives who refuse to acknowledge the hard fact that transgenderism is a mental disorder.

    • AKP says:

      Or as the American Psychological Association says – “A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder. For these individuals, the significant problem is finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination. Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. These experiences may lead many transgender people to suffer with anxiety, depression or related disorders at higher rates than nontransgender persons.”
      In other words – Daphne R Nipp you would count as one of the obstacles.

    • Bruce says:

      Have to LOL at the people who think that higher suicide/ attempted suicide rates are reflective of something wrong with the people themselves rather than how they’re treated.

      For the “yes but other people have hard lives and they don’t kill themselves” argument: anybody ever look into the incidence of self-destructive behaviors among abuse survivors?

      • Bruce says:

        ^ should have said “among abuse survivors or those subjected to ongoing abuse.” Sometimes the rest of the world isn’t any safer than the house where you grow up.

    • Sharon says:

      Frequently the suicide attempts took place before they came out as transgender or had hormone therapy and surgery.
      As far as the transgender issue is concerned, from an professional point of view how does this differ from a contralto singing trouser roles?