Mystery score

Mystery score

Friday, February 22, 2013

Zheng Cao

Zheng Cao in 1998
(Photo by John O'Hara)

Mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao, a wonderful singer and a great favorite in San Francisco, has died at 46, several years after a cancer diagnosis. Joshua Kosman has an obit up in the Chron.

I saw her in most of her San Francisco Opera roles, including Cherubino, Suzuki, Baba the Turk, and Ruth Young Kamen. She was the best thing about The Bonesetter's Daughter, a misconceived and embarrassingly poor work; her performance was sincere, gorgeously sung, and dramatically dead-on. She was in the 2007 Butterfly with Patricia Racette, Brandon Jovanovich, and Stephen Powell, Donald Runnicles conducting, which stands as perhaps the greatest single opera performance I've ever seen. I still remember Cao's utter anguish at Butterfly's continued optimism that Pinkerton would return to her.

I also saw her as Zerlina in LA in 1999; I'm not a fan of mezzos in what's obviously a role for a light soprano, but she sang it well and certainly acted the part appropriately!

I last saw her at the von Stade Gala in December, 2011, when she came on stage with a hand from (I think) Jake Heggie and sang a verse or two of "You'll Never Walk Alone."

She didn't walk alone through her long final illness, owing to the help of friends like Flicka and Jake; she married one of her doctors a year or so into treatment. RIP, Zheng Cao, gone much too soon and greatly missed.

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