Lucia Lucas made theatre history on Saturday 5 October 2019, as the first openly transgender singer to perform with the English National Opera.
AussieTheatre.com’s Peter J Snee caught up with her to find out more.
Lucia grew up in Sacramento, California where she studied horn and voice at California State University. She went on to undertake graduate work at the Chicago College of Performing Arts before moving to Germany in 2009 to pursue her career as a professional opera performer.
In 2013 Lucia felt the time was right to transition and recalls her experience.
“I knew in 2013 that I was coming out and it was happening soon; it was early May in 2014 when I actually publicly came out and began that adventure socially.
Social transition is where you talk with the people around you, your friends and family and say, “hey this is who I am. I want you to know who I am – these are the things about me that you didn’t know before, here are my pronouns and my preferred name.”
We were half way through the 2013/14 season when I came out and I had 3 or 4 shows in that week, so I really didn’t think about it. Those shows had already been built, so any weirdness that could have been with the director didn’t happen because they didn’t know when we were building the show. I just went to work and did the work on stage that I had always done. I didn’t change any movements, didn’t change any costumes, didn’t change any make-up; everything was exactly the same as it was the week before I came out. In doing that and realising that it wasn’t so stressful or mentally taxing, I just sort of decided oh, ok, this can work. The next level was wondering how directors were going to interact with me and if the job was still going to be as easy in the future.
My initial goal was to see if I could have a career and be myself at the same time; I did that. Then I wanted to work out what I wanted from my life; I wanted to see if I could be out in my career for longer than I wasn’t, then I would consider that to be a success. I did that.
So now everything else is a bonus, I’m just happy, I’m happy at how much I’ve done. Hopefully I’ll just keep going and going.
Had I transitioned before I was 12, I never would have been a performer. Doing music and being a performer was basically a sense of community for me.
When I was in Sacramento, I did the [orientation] tour in my undergrad for computer science, computer engineering and music. When I did the tour for computer science and computer engineering we were going down empty halls and we would peek into computer labs, there was one person there typing who would look up as if to say, “who are you?!” and then they’d go back to typing; it was a very cold atmosphere. When we went to the music building, there were people sitting, around basically in a drum circle, eating their lunch. It was like instinctive community and do you want instinct community, well yes, yes I do. Had I been able to really deal with my own self earlier, I probably wouldn’t have needed to go into music.
My whole theory is be who you needed when you were younger. It’s not something I made up, but I heard it and thought YES! Find out who you could have used and be that person for others.
The initial reaction from my colleagues was pretty good and then we went on vacation. People obviously had more time to consider the situation and when we returned, some people were more supportive and some people were less so. When I first came out, I had friends that thought my career was over, people asked where I was going to go and what I was going to do next.
But there is a certain amount of negative energy that I do feed on, not in a bad way, but when somebody says I can’t do something I just think; we’ll see!
I think it’s great if anybody from any sort of minority group gets the opportunity to do something that nobody has done before, because there is a reason that somebody didn’t let them do it before. It’s not important to me that I was the first, I just hope that people in the future have an easier time than I had and there are less questions. There are lots of performers in London and already lots of trans performers, but this is the first time a trans person has been cast in a major opera company with a full season. I think it is important to celebrate firsts, if somebody is doing something from a minority it is important for the future. Hopefully it will wear down the edges and the silly arguments for not including people.”
And when the conversation moved to what’s next. . .
“I love the fact that this conversation is starting and if I can help make this easier for future trans performers I would love that. I would also be interested in speaking publicly about inclusivity in the arts.
I want to continue performing at world class level, so I am going to continue training, going to my teachers and coaches.
I recently performed on camera in a short opera that is available online, HGO Star-cross’d and recorded a documentary that is due out next year. I would like to do film at some point too when the time is right.”
And the question on everybody’s lips, will we see you in Australia any time soon?
“I don’t have any immediate plans to perform in Australia sadly. My mum has wanted to go forever, so she just went this summer, but I couldn’t go because I was too busy. I have a lot of Australian colleagues in Germany and I find the people very friendly so I would love to visit. I also love architecture and would absolutely love to see the [Sydney] Opera House for the architectural digest.”
To hear more about what Lucia is up to, visit her website www.lucialucas.de.