The Sound of Identity documentary review

★★★★

Directed by: #JamesKicklighter

Starring: #TobiasPicker #LuciaLucas

Film Review by: Bruna Foletto Lucas



The Sound of Identity is a feature-long documentary that tells the story of Lucia Lucas, the first transgender opera singer to perform as Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a mainstage opera – and she does that in Oklahoma, one of the most conservative states in the United States!


The director James Kicklighter assembles a crew that is nothing short of recognition – the Emmy-winning production company, local from Tulsa, Kirkpatrick & Kinslow Productions handled production alongside executive producer Josh Bachove. The cinematography, which goes back and forth between voyeuristic camera and stylistic interviews, was done by Jonathan Pope and the original score that hovers throughout the film was composed and conducted by Nicolas Repetto.


Lucia Lucas is the face of the documentary, and she is followed through a period of six weeks from pre-production to post-opening night. Tobias Picker, Lucia’s mentor and legendary opera composer, is the mind behind the choice of Lucia as Don Giovanni – a licentious nobleman. The casting choice is what raises the stakes for Lucia herself, for Picker, and it is what Kicklighter highlights in his documentary. In the words of other actors, Don Giovanni is “awful” and “evil” but Lucia does not see it that way, she chooses to see the beauty in him and his personality and through her music she wants the audience to feel. There is purity in Lucia’s words and almost a naive vision of what her presence as a transgender woman brings to the role. There is a double-edged sword at play here that is explored at length in the documentary – on the one hand, it brings about a representation that lacks in the industry and people might be drawn to the project precisely because of the novelty it chooses to portray, but on the other hand, it might take away from Lucia’s performance.


Through this issue, the documentary turns its attention to concerns around community, history and the love for arts. The history of opera is explored briefly in interviews, but what is left by Kicklighter and the interviewees is the struggle the art form is facing being one of the most expensive art spectacles to produce and one that doesn’t attract wide attention. The puzzle above is brought here again as Lucia’s presence might be key to bring new audiences to opera – but whether this will happen or not, one thing is certain: Kicklighter used this ground-breaking story to shine a light on the incredible talent present in the industry and The Sound of Identity might help to bring attention to the art form.