A South Korean tenor who lost his voice due to cancer surgery is undergoing rehabilitation with support from Japanese to return to the stage, believing in a miracle.
Bae Jae Chul, 37, who belongs to a German opera house, began feeling there was something wrong in his throat while performing “Don Carlo” in fall 2005. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent surgery.
The operation was successful, but doctors had to cut the nerves in his vocal cords, leaving him unable to speak.
Bae had been a rising star on the world opera stage and his fans were devastated to learn he could no longer sing. But one fan, music producer Totaro Wajima, sprang into action.
“As soon as I heard the news, I could not sit still and flew to Germany to help bring back to life that wonderful singing voice,” said Wajima, 44.
A German doctor told him the best way to restore Bae’s vocal cords would likely be to get Nobuhiko Isshiki, a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Kyoto University, to do a thyroplasty operation.
Bae and Wajima went to Kyoto, and last spring, Bae had the surgery. It was a success and the singer can now speak.
But there are still hurdles to singing opera. Bae must get the function back of the small muscles that control singing and tone intervals.
This spring, Bae returned to Japan and saw Shigeki Aida, a bone-setter in Tokyo.
Aida, 44, specializes in voice maintenance for opera singers and actors. He massages the muscles around the throats, stimulating them with electricity.
He is optimistic Bae will be able to sing again.
“Small muscles controlling his voice functions together with nerves are cut. If I can find muscles for replacement and make them soft, he can possibly be back singing opera within six months,” the bone-setter said.
“I appreciate the warm Japanese support,” Bae said.
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