Creators of the opera, John Glover and Kelly Rourke, were inspired by the episode to learn more, which lead them to Dr. Temerlin's memoir.
Psychologist Maurice Temerlin and his wife adopted a day-old chimp, whom they named Lucy, in 1964.
The idea was to raise Lucy as much as possible like a human child. And in some ways, it worked. She learned to dress herself, she made tea for the Temerlins’ guests, she used sign language and even enjoyed cocktails.
For 12 years, she lived with the couple before it became painfully obvious that the arrangement had to end. It was an experiment, and one of its most interesting result was not how it changed Lucy, but how it changed the humans who lived with her.
It is that change that the new opera, Lucy, explores. Its world premiere, by the Milwaukee Opera Theatre, opens tomorrow night at the Tenth Street Theatre.
The artistic director Jill Anna Ponasik, composer/creator John Glover and librettist/creator Kelly Rourke speak with Lake Effect's Bonnie North about the show.
"We were really interested in what this did to [Temerlin], and his experience of trying to be a father, of trying to run an experiment that was also a deeply emotional bond, and how he reflected on these choices after they've been made and he can't undo them," Glover says.
Listen to the Lucy Radiolab episode: