Review: 'The Sound Of Identity' Goes Backstage for a Dramatic Premiere

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 1, 2021

'The sound of Identity'
'The sound of Identity'  

There will come a time in our (distant?) future when filmmaker James Kicklighter can make a documentary like "The Sound Of Identity" and the sole focus can remain on the extraordinary voice of opera singer Lucia Lucas, with barely a mention of the fact she is transgender. However, right now we still need films like this, which add much to the burgeoning dialogue of the trans community in their fight for acceptance and rights.

Having said that, the disarmingly charming Lucas is neither a martyr nor a pioneer to the cause. She is a human being, and an extremely talented singer who just happens to also be a trans woman.

Since her transition, she has lived with her opera singer wife in Germany, where she has a successful career. She has, however, never sung in the U.S., even though she is an American. This film is about the 30-day run-up to her debut performance of the title role in "Don Giovanni" at the Tulsa Opera Company.

The theater company may be situated in Oklahoma, one of the most conservative states in the U.S., but it does have Tobias Picker - a remarkable queer composer - as its forward-thinking artistic director. It was Picker's decision to cast Lucas purely on her talent, but he is more than aware of the risks of his controversial choice.

We see Picker acting as Lucas' mentor throughout the whole rehearsal period, and both of them are anxious to get a sold-out crowd. To enable that, Lucas makes a personal commitment to make local public appearances and press interviews - so much so, the opera's director is concerned it may interfere with the rehearsal period.

The choice of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" could not be perfect. The character is a libertine and seducer, a man of many disguises who has both a masculine and feminine side. Lucas totally embraces the character on and off the stage, and you know when watching the rehearsals that she will be a resounding success.

Kicklighter's camera shows us different sides of Lucas. When she talks of her craft and her love of singing, she is supremely confident. However, when talking of the fact that her father (whom she hasn't seen since she transitioned) is coming for the opening night, she reverts to being a young girl seeking approval.

Lucas may not see herself as a leading force in the trans community, but others do. Earlier this year, after she sang with the English National Opera in London, Pink Magazine named her as one of 25 trans and non-binary people who are making the world a better place.

It is impossible not to be taken up by both her charm and talent, and Kicklighter's film makes us feel part of her great triumph, too.

P.S.: Lucas's debut didn't just result in Picker starting to compose an opera for her based on "The Danish Girl," but she was invited to make her debut at the Met in New York City. Sadly, that was before COVID-19 shut the season down, but we know she'll be back.

"The Sound Of Identity" is available on digital and on demand June 1, 2021

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.