Release date: 6/13/2013
Memorial Honoring the Life of Mezzo-Soprano Zheng Cao Monday, June 24, 2013, War Memorial Opera House
On Monday June 24, San Francisco Opera will celebrate the life of extraordinary mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao with a memorial at the War Memorial Opera House. Ms. Cao died in February at her home in San Francisco at the age of 46 after a long, brave battle with cancer. The beloved Bay Area-based singer, an alumna of the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship Program (1995-96) and Merola Opera Program (1994), appeared regularly with the Company as well as with leading companies in the United States and abroad. The public is invited to share in this free event, which will take place from 3 to 5 p.m.
Gathering to honor Zheng Cao’s life are a prestigious group of artists who were also among her friends, including mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, composer Jake Heggie, sopranos Patricia Racette and Nicolle Foland, cellist Emil Miland, author Amy Tan and singers from the Young Women’s Choral Project, among others. Musical performances will include opera arias, instrumental works, Chinese folk songs and art songs expressive of the ensemble’s relationship to Ms. Cao. The program of events will also include a special video tribute and speakers from Zheng Cao’s family and friends. At the request of Ms. Cao’s family, attendees are asked to wear red clothing or a red accent or accessory.
San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley remembered Ms. Cao: “Zheng had more than a lovely, fruity, lyric mezzo-soprano voice. She infused every life situation around her with a sense of great joy, fun and heartfelt sincerity. She was in a class by herself with regard to how people responded to her. Zheng had so many wonderful relationships with everyone she encountered, they were so heartfelt and beautiful, and she truly touched all of us in the most remarkable way. I am saddened by her passing, but I just know she is once again singing in some celestial ensemble.”
Zheng Cao performed in sixteen San Francisco Opera productions, most notably and recently in the title role of the world premiere of The Bonesetter’s Daughter in 2008. She made her San Francisco Opera debut in 1995 as Siebel in Faust and returned to the Company in roles including Idamante in Idomeneo, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Nicklausse in Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly. In February 2012, the Merola Opera Program established the Zheng Cao Opera Fund, which annually sponsors one incoming Merola artist—either an Asian/Pacific artist or a mezzo-soprano.
Gockley continued: “Zheng’s appearances here at San Francisco Opera over the years were warmly received and noticed by all who heard her in performance. Her career on the War Memorial Opera House stage culminated in 2008 with the starring role of Ruth Kamen in Stewart Wallace and Amy Tan’s world premiere opera, The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Zheng was the focal point of an international premiere that garnered her enthusiastic and extraordinary critical acclaim. I am so proud of this new opera for many reasons, but in particular for the opportunity it provided Zheng to be front and center, where she always belonged.”