The Sound Of Identity


Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

The Sound of Identity
"A ritual of metamorphosis."

Composed by Mozart in 1787, Don Giovanni, one of the most famous operas, which is included in the repertoires of the most famous theatres in the world, tells the story of a young, dissolute nobleman who crosses all the borders of decency. The eponymous Don Giovanni wins and breaks hearts, insulting and alienating subsequent people, to the point of supernatural culmination and a moralising conclusion. The Sound Of Identity by James Kicklighter tells the story of producing a modern version of the famous opera. A pioneering production: the role of Don Giovanni is played by the first transgender singer in the history of the medium, Lucia Lucas, and the premiere of the opera takes place in ... Tulsa.

One cannot help but feel that history repeats itself. Suffice it to recall Peter Farrelly's Green Book and the factual story of Don Shirley, a prominent African-American pianist, touring the southern racist states of the United States. Like the homosexual Shirley, Lucas not only takes a big step in her professional opera singer career, but also confronts a traditional world that is hostile to any otherness.

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Don Giovanni being an opera with a moralising character, criticising extremes and crossing borders, takes on a completely different colour in Lucas' performance, as the artist herself says: “I want you to love Giovanni. I want you to hate yourself for loving him. And I want you to feel bad. I want all society to feel bad for stealing Giovanni's identity .” Conservative opera in a conservative city and in a conservative part of the United States, with the help of the artist's unique creation, becomes a kind of identity manifesto and a voice of opposition to discrimination against sexual minorities.

The Sound Of Identity is not only about how opera mingles with real life, how Lucas' creation becomes a personal manifesto. It is not only electrifying material for a cultural researcher, it is a ritual of metamorphosis of a transsexual woman who, on stage, once again crosses the boundaries of her gender. It is also a commentary on the boundaries and tasks of art. For Kicklighter, art should be involved. Its mission should be to try to change people's thinking. And in this social commitment, the author of the documentary sees a recipe for a slowly dying, ever demanding opera medium.

It is impossible not to sympathise with Lucia Lucas and her seemingly impossible mission. The Sound Of Identity shows a personal path to recognition and acceptance, but refrains from showing the opera's reception. The pioneering, founding act itself is part of the American vision of the world and the road itself seems to be the future.

Reviewed on: 01 Jun 2021
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The Sound Of Identity packshot
In the spotlight of global media coverage, the first transgender woman ever to perform as Don Giovanni in a professional opera makes her historic debut in one of the reddest states in the US.
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Director: James Kicklighter

Starring: Lucia Lucas, Tobias Picker, Denni Sayers

Year: 2020

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


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