Composer John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke's opera Lucy takes as its subject the fascinating and thought provoking story of a chimpanzee raised by a human family in Oklahoma in the 1960’s as part of research into both human and primate behavior and psychology. This recording features poignant performances by baritone Andrew Wilkowske and the Red Shift Ensemble with Glover conducting.
|01||"The remains of the chimp known as Lucy were found in the Gambia last week..."/ Wondering|
"The remains of the chimp known as Lucy were found in the Gambia last week..."/ Wondering
|02||"The University of Oklahomas cross-fostering project places its fourth chimpanzee..."|
"The University of Oklahomas cross-fostering project places its fourth chimpanzee..."
|03||Babys first year|
Babys first year
|04||"For the first 12 months of life..."|
"For the first 12 months of life..."
|06||"To the extent possible, the family makes no distinction..."|
"To the extent possible, the family makes no distinction..."
|08||"Yesterday, Lucy moved into a new wing..."|
"Yesterday, Lucy moved into a new wing..."
|09||An organized world|
An organized world
|11||"In addition to their suburban home, the Temerlins own a large cattle ranch..."|
"In addition to their suburban home, the Temerlins own a large cattle ranch..."
|12||Completely at home|
Completely at home
|13||An ideal drinking companion|
An ideal drinking companion
|14||"Researchers have identified thirty-two distinctive sounds and sixty-six gestures..."|
"Researchers have identified thirty-two distinctive sounds and sixty-six gestures..."
|16||Using her signs|
Using her signs
|17||No pets allowed|
No pets allowed
|19||"She fed the mother a Coca-Cola, which had been spiked with phencyclidine..."|
"She fed the mother a Coca-Cola, which had been spiked with phencyclidine..."
|20||A real kick|
A real kick
|22||"Chimpanzees are five to seven times stronger than humans..."|
"Chimpanzees are five to seven times stronger than humans..."
|25||Many people will not|
Many people will not
|26||Who can we trust?|
Who can we trust?
|29||Such great people|
Such great people
|30||I hated Lucy at that moment|
I hated Lucy at that moment
|33||Completely at home|
Completely at home
|34||Robert Ingersoll in conversation with Erik Pearson|
Robert Ingersoll in conversation with Erik Pearson
|35||The Making of Lucy|
The Making of Lucy
Composer John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke's opera Lucy takes as its subject the fascinating and thought provoking story of a chimpanzee raised by a human family in Oklahoma in the 1960’s as part of research into both human and primate behavior and psychology. Glover’s poignant and emotionally sensitive piece explores not just the ups and downs of Lucy’s childhood and relationship to her “parents” Maurice and Jane Temerlin, but also forces us to engage with questions of nature vs. nurture, what it means to be human, and the consequences of our interactions with other species.
He and librettist Kelley Rourke were initially inspired by hearing Lucy’s story on the popular public radio program, Radiolab. The songs relate actual episodes from Lucy's life, as reported in Maurice Temerlin's memoir and other sources. Glover’s effervescent style is perfect for the recounting of Lucy’s everyday activities as they are transformed into profound observations on behavior, as well as capturing Maurice’s dual role as father and documentarian of this unique experiment. The prevalence of familiar scenarios between children and parents as they are growing up is striking — in a particular powerful passage, Maurice relates his impulse to punish Lucy by striking her. Lucy, who had learned ASL (American Sign Language) by this time in her development, uses it to communicate with Maurice and eludes her punishment just as a human child might, with a cute appeal to her angry father. Lucy’s Vocabulary, age 9.5 deftly “sets” Lucy’s words, with Wilkowske signing as the violin plays fragile harmonics over a sparse and innocent toy piano and cello accompaniment. By choosing a small ensemble configuration, Glover keeps our focus on the incremental, domestic discoveries of child rearing and avoids distracting bombast.
Andrew Wilkowske delivers a heartfelt performance, capturing the nuance of Maurice’s relationship to his daughter, and REDSHIFT Ensemble provides colorful, expressive support. The release concludes with an interview, edited by WQXR/ Q2’s Hannis Brown, with Robert Ingersol, a primatologist who knew Lucy and was featured in the documentary, Project Nim, a landmark film about efforts to teach a chimp sign language. Lucy is a story that may leave us with more questions than answers, about the distinctions between humans and animals, our assumptions about child rearing, and our emotional attachments, but Glover and Rourke’s sensitive presentation is firm in its assertion that the questions that are raised have profound implications for our understanding of ourselves.
John Glover, composer/conductor
Kelley Rourke, librettist
Andrew Wilkowske, baritone
Christopher Zemliauskas, Music Director/Piano Red Shift Ensemble:
Andie Springer, violin
Jeff Anderle, clarinet
Rose Bellini, cello
Kate Campbell, toy piano
Recorded live at Milwaukee Opera Theatre, 2014
Jill Anna Ponasik, Producing Artistic Director
Ric Probst, Recording
Sheldon Steiger, Mixing
Kelley Rourke’s collaborations with John Glover include the orchestral song cycle Natural Systems (New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall), the rock-recital Guns ‘n Rosenkavalier (various venues) and a new, evening-length piece for Jesse Blumberg and the Del Sol String Quartet. The Glimmerglass Festival commissioned Kelley to write the youth operas Odyssey (2015) and Robin Hood (2017), both with music by Ben Moore, and Wilde Tales (2016), with music by Laura Karpman. Kelley has also created fifteen contemporary English adaptations of standard and not-so- standard repertory, which have been heard at companies including English National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, The Atlanta Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. These collaborations with dead composers have been hailed as “crackingly witty” (The Independent, London) and “remarkably well wedded to the music and versification in arias” (New York Times). Kelley is resident dramaturg for The Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera.
Described as “an unabashedly expressive composer,” (The New Yorker) John Glover has created music for concert, opera, dance, and theater. He has received commissions from organizations including Houston Grand Opera, New York Youth Symphony, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Mirror Visions Ensemble, Del Sol String Quartet, Liuh-wen Ting, Amber Sloan Dance, String Noise, Crossman Dans(c)e, and the Five Boroughs Music Festival. John has received awards, fellowships, and grants for his music from organizations including New Music USA, Meet The Composer, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Cambodia Living Arts, Cherry Valley Artworks, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Recent projects include Guns ‘n Rosenkavalier, a rock-recital with baritone Andrew Wilkowske and horn quartet Genghis Barbie; Rudiments at The Yard for Amber Sloan and vocalist Tomás Cruz; the multimedia work Snow, created with choreographer Jordan Morley for toy-pianist Phyllis Chen; American Gothic, for bass-baritone Davonne Tines and Canite Quartet; and score and sound design for the immersive work HERE by choreographer Kelly Bartnik. Future projects include a new work for Del Sol String Quartet with Jesse Blumberg.
Andrew Wilkowske, widely known for his expertise in modern repertoire, created the role of Ponchel in the Pulitzer Prize- winning Silent Night (Kevin Puts/ Mark Campbell) at Minnesota Opera, with repeat performances at Opera Philadelphia, Cincinnati Opera, Lyric Opera Kansas City, and The Atlanta Opera. Other recent premieres include The Invention of Morel with Chicago Opera Theater, The Rivals with Skylight Music Theatre, The Grapes of Wrath with Minnesota Opera and Pittsburgh Opera, The Adventures of Pinocchio with Minnesota Opera, and The Fly with Los Angeles Opera. His performance in Verdi’s King for a Day at The Glimmerglass Festival was called “superb” by The New York Times and hailed for “impressive command to the text” by The Wall Street Journal. With John Glover, he created the critically acclaimed rock-recital Guns n’ Rosenkavalier. Other highlights include performances with Minnesota Orchestra, Buffalo Symphony, Boston Lyric Opera, Milwaukee Opera Theater, Florentine Opera, and Komische Oper Berlin. Wilkowske is featured on several recordings, including The Grapes of Wrath and the PBS telecast of Silent Night.
Christopher Zemliauskas, a member of the faculty at Ithaca College, has also served on the faculties of NYU Steinhardt and CU Boulder. At CU he conducted productions of Our Town, Albert Herring, Little Women, and Orfeo ed Euridice. At Central City Opera, Zemliauskas has conducted performances of Our Town, Carmen, Amadigi di Gaula, A Little Night Music, West Side Story, Susannah, Curlew River, The Prodigal Son, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Don Giovanni, La Traviata, and Cendrillon. As a co-artistic director of FusionChamber, a new music ensemble in Boulder, he has conducted performances of Pierrot Lunaire, Eight Songs for a Mad King, and Miss Donnithorne’s Maggott. An active chamber musician, Zemliauskas has played with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Extasis Tango Quartet, and has been Symphony Conductor for the Boulder Youth Symphony.
Founded in 2007, REDSHIFT is committed to performing contemporary music with “dazzling technique and out-of-box creativity” (Lucid Culture NY). With home bases in multiple cities, the ensemble draws on vast experience performing all types of classical music – from the traditional to wildly experimental – and presents new works in traditional and nontraditional settings. REDSHIFT’s appearances regularly feature commissions and world premieres from composers working in a range of styles and at varied career stages. The members of REDSHIFT (Andie Springer, violin; Jeff Anderle, clarinets; Rose Bellini, cello; Kate Campbell, piano) individually perform, teach, commission, record, and curate projects. In addition to REDSHIFT, they are members of a diverse roster of ensembles including Sqwonk, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Hotel Elefant, Seattle Modern Orchestra, Transit, Splinter Reeds, and KATES. They are also founders, administrators, and board members of successful organizations and festivals such as the Switchboard Music Festival, and Omaha Under the Radar Festival..
As unlikely as it may seem, the true story of Lucy, a chimpanzee “adopted” at birth in 1964 by a human family and raised for 11 years in suburbia as a daughter, turns out to be the backbone of a compelling opera.
Composer John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke have crafted “Lucy,” which premiered in Milwaukee in 2014, skillfully — Rourke by sidestepping the question of the moral obliviousness of the undertaking and offering a mix of objectivity, emotion and humor, and Glover by managing to flesh out the single role of Maurice Temerlin, Lucy’s “father,” with musical incarnations of the growing chimp and the physical and emotional pleasure and chaos she leaves in her trail.
“Lucy,” a presentation of the always-interesting UrbanArias, opened for a four-performance run at H Street’s Atlas Performing Arts Center on Saturday with baritone Andrew Wilkowske as Temerlin, and Wilkowske nailed it, mostly because he is as nuanced an actor as he is a singer. The score doesn’t call for vocal acrobatics or for a particularly big range and only occasionally for bursts of passion. What it needs, and what it got from Wilkowske, is subtle shades of wistfulness, impatience and wonder, all bolstered by the endurance it takes to be alone onstage for an hour.
As the opera opens, it is several decades after it became necessary for Temerlin to send Lucy away to a chimpanzee refuge in Gambia, and he opens a letter telling him that her body has been found. Through the rest of the opera, he reminisces — about her playfulness and destructiveness, her attachment to the family and to a pet kitten, their companionable drinking together and difficulties with visitors — reminiscences by turns rueful, funny and proud.
The opera is structured in episodes, each introduced by the taped voice of an objective reporter who narrates pieces of the experiment’s history. And the accompanying score, for violin, cello, bass clarinet, piano and toy piano (an instrument that appears in other Glover endeavors), is determinedly lighthearted even in moments of pandemonium. When Temerlin despairs of Lucy’s delight in defecating wherever she pleases and pleads that he is a man who loves order, the quintet breaks into a graceful waltz, and the playfulness that accompanies moments of maximum disorder is more a reflection of Lucy’s mind than of Temerlin’s. The toy piano lent a tinkly, fey, percussive voice to the ensemble, perfect for those moments when I couldn’t resist wondering what Temerlin could have been thinking when he took this on.
— Joan Reinthaler, Washington Post, 4.2.2017
Though it's not uncommon for opera to take as its subject matter romantic tragedy, Lucy is anything but common, though it is a love story, and one of Shakespearean proportions. It's a cautionary tale, too, that encourages one to reflect on animal rights issues and consider the damage that can be done to our animal brethren in the name of research, even when intentions are honourable. Lucy, you see, is the name of a real-life chimpanzee who was raised by Maurice and Jane Temerlin in suburban Oklahoma during the ‘60s as part of a long-term study about human-and-primate interactions. What makes the story even more remarkable is that Lucy lived with the Temerlins for more than a decade, whereas most such “cross-fostering” arrangements tended to last but a year.
The story's tragic dimension derives not only from the unnatural life Lucy was forced to experience as a participant in the experiment but from its end: years after being moved from the Temerlin home to a sanctuary facility in Gambia, Lucy's body was found in 1987 with her hands and skin removed, the implication being that she was easy prey for poachers when her immediate response to a human after having lived with the family for so many years would have been to approach rather than flee. That Lucy is ultimately a love story more than anything else is evident throughout but becomes especially clear during “Completely at home” when baritone Andrew Wilkowske as Maurice Temerlin lovingly describes Lucy as a “sight of great beauty”; implied throughout the work is the idea that he genuinely came to regard her as his “daughter.”
Using modest vocal and instrumental resources, composer John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke have fashioned a remarkable treatment of the saga in song cycle form. Wilkowske delivers an emotionally stirring performance in the sole singing part and receives sensitive support on this 2014 Milwaukee Opera Theatre live recording from pianist Christopher Zemliauskas and Red Shift Ensemble members Andie Springer (violin), Jeff Anderle (clarinet), Rose Bellini (cello), and Kate Campbell (toy piano); though all of the instrumentalists acquit themselves splendidly, Campbell's toy piano produces a striking tonal colour that complements the subject matter perfectly. And don't be surprised if “Lucy,” a two-note motif sung with heartfelt longing by Wilkowske, remains with you long after the recording's over.
Impressive also is the work's narrative form. It begins with Maurice in his study playing a tape that reports on the 1987 death of Lucy, which he then interrupts to replace with another tape that begins in 1966 when the chimpanzee joined the Temerlins. As the opera advances, mini-arias alternate with timeline reports delivered dispassionately by Sarah Sokolovic in the role of researcher; the device proves effective in the way it advances the story towards its tragic end and brings clarity to the study's progress. For the episodes recalled in the songs, Rourke used Maurice's 1975 book Lucy: Growing Up Human and the incidents recalled therein as a key resource. At the risk of oversimplifying, the musical character takes its cue from the libretto with a particularly raucous or poignant incident mirrored in corresponding manner by Glover. The reminiscences are by turns touching, impassioned, agitated, and even hilarious. A particularly memorable instance of the latter occurs during “An Organized World” when Wilkowske sings in his most snootily indignant voice “I prefer an organized world in which feces are deposited in the proper place,” even going so far as to ornament his delivery with a baroque-like trill.
Mention also should be made of New Focus Recordings' physical presentation of the work. In addition to bios and historical background on both the opera and originating study, the booklet contains the libretto, and the recording supplements the opera proper with two bonus tracks, the first an interview with Robert Ingersol, a primatologist who knew Lucy, and the second a collection of interview snippets about the opera's creation by the principal players.
In having the contours of two heads snugly align and in showing the sinews beneath their respective skins to be similar, Jenny Kampmeier's cover illustration suggests that the divide separating humans and chimpanzees is smaller than generally thought. Yet Lucy sends a dramatically different message in asserting that no matter how much we might think a chimpanzee has in common with a human, it's ultimately a unique creature whose integrity is violated when the attempt is made to alter its natural self. That Lucy should have acted like some delinquent teen and attempted to tear the Temerlins' furniture apart or attack a visitor's cat is only natural, and the expectation that she should have acted otherwise seems misguided.
As if designed to illustrate the point, “Using her signs” recounts an incident that involved Lucy, having torn every leaf from the family's banana tree and scattering its soil across the floor, responding to Maurice's raised hand with a smile and a signed “I'm Lucy” (at this stage in her development, she had learned ASL), the implication being that for her such behaviour wasn't maliciously motivated but the most natural thing in the world. Given such incongruities, it gradually became obvious to all concerned that her real home could never be the Oklahoma suburbs, but by then it was, in a sense, too late, even though considerable efforts were made to acclimatize her to the Gambian environment. That such an unusual story should end up being so moving is a compliment to everyone involved but perhaps Glover, Rourke, and Wilkowske most of all.
— Ron Schepper, textura, 5.2017
In 1964, Maurice and Jane Temerlin “adopted” the just-born Lucy as part of a series of crossfostering experiments in which chimpanzees were raised as if they were human, with mostly tragic outcomes for the chimps. Lucy lived with them until 1977, when they could no longer deal with her. She was finally set free in The Gambia, where her mutilated body was found in 1987. Kelley Rourke’s libretto (included in the booklet) imagines Maurice Temerlin learning of Lucy’s death and recalling episodes from their years together, drawn from his memoir, Lucy: Growing Up Human. John Glover’s hour-long opera (2014) features baritone Andrew Wilkowske (Temerlin), speaker Sarah Sokolovic (Researcher), pianist Christopher Zemliauskas and the four-member REDSHIFT Ensemble, with Glover conducting.
The hearty-voiced Wilkowske sings with energy and expression, but his music is less engrossing than his words, recounting many humorous, sometimes frightening, scenes of his “daughter” Lucy running around with unrolled toilet paper, getting drunk, carrying a kitten on her back, learning American Sign Language, dialling a telephone, attacking and biting a visitor. Most of Lucy’s musical pleasures are provided by the varied colours and bubbling rhythms of the instrumental accompaniment. Bonus tracks include comments by Glover, Rourke, Wilkowske, stage director Erik Pearson and, most eloquently, Robert Ingersoll, who worked on the cross-fostering project but now advocates for chimps to be treated as chimps. “We stole their lives from them,” he laments. Lucy helps explain Ingersoll’s anguish.
— Michael Schulman, The Whole Note, 6.1.2017
Lucy is a one-act opera for baritone, with occasional spoken narration. The tale is true but Kelley Rourke’s libretto is fiction, like an historical novel. It recreates one man’s (and, by report, his wife’s) responses to raising a chimpanzee, at home from birth to age 11 and for years thereafter in the wilderness. The story is fascinating, but what sort of an opera does it make? That depends on the music. Composer John Glover’s vocal line is a continuous parlando that never rises to dramatic or lyrical heights. The accompaniment, for piano, violin, clarinet, cello, and toy piano, sparkles. But much of the vocalism is unaccompanied, so the sparkle shows up mostly in the many brief interludes. One interesting conclusion from the man/chimp relationship is that chimps have a finely developed sense of humor. Among other evidence, Lucy locked Maurice out of the house while he was doing yoga in the nude on the porch. Another is that the animals are gentle; chimpanzees are from five to seven times stronger than humans, yet Lucy harmed someone only once, when it appeared that the person was attacking Maurice. Lucy runs just under an hour; the final 19 minutes are devoted to discussions among its creators. Wilkowske’s every word is intelligible; the narrator speaks too fast and mumbles a bit. The recorded sound is clear and pleasing—the REDSHIFT Ensemble sounds lovely. The booklet includes not only a complete libretto but a detailed timeline of the studies of man’s closest relative, from 1930 to 1987. (Lucy was born and adopted by the Temerlins in 1962; she died in 1987.) The opera’s title character does not appear on the disc; a few pictures in the booklet show a chimpanzee projected on the backdrop of the live performance. That looks promising: I suspect a video would deliver more drama, and more musical interest, than this audio-only recording. The opera may very well be a success; this CD is not. James North, © 2017 Fanfare