Zheng Cao, A Profile in Courage

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Mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao's career continues after she survived a bout with stage 4 lung cancer.(Photo: Courtesy Photo)
Mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao's career continues after she survived a bout with stage 4 lung cancer.(Photo: Courtesy Photo)

I’ve just been listening to a new CD of art songs by Jake Heggie called Passing By.

These are new recordings of Heggie’s music with the composer at the piano, featuring some of his favorite artists: Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade (Heggie’s mentor), Paul Groves, Keith Phares…and Zheng Cao.

When I heard Cao, I thought: what a wonderful voice – a rich, glowing near-contralto!

Listen to her in a bit of Heggie’s The Best Time of Day.

[audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/classical/2011/CAO.mp3"]

Zheng Cao is a Chinese born mezzo-soprano who has been based in California for many years. She has some impressive credits: San Francisco Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Boston Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera among them.

Cao’s name entered the popular culture in 2001 with the death of her partner, former movie pin up boy Troy Donahue. (If that isn’t a mini-series I don’t know what is).

She was diagnosed with lung cancer a number of years ago and was literally sent home to die. She didn’t, and her career continues apace.

Watch: Zheng Cao talks about her battle with stage 4 lung cancer.

More recently Cao has sung in Vancouver and San Francisco and she’ll be at the Kentucky Opera in Louisville this  November to sing Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

In a perfect world, we’d be taking about Zheng Cao for her magnificent voice. That she has. It’s not a perfect world, but we can still pay tribute to her guts and her heart while continuing to enjoy her singing. Brava!

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