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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Crow’s Theatre’s Mixtape Offers Wit, Wisdom, And The Making Of An Opera Singer

By Paula Citron on November 22, 2021

Zorana Sadiq in MIXTAPE (Photo: Aleksandar Antonijevic)
Zorana Sadiq in MIXTAPE (Photo: Aleksandar Antonijevic)

Crow’s Theatre/Mixtape, written and performed by Zorana Sadiq, directed by Chris Abraham, Guloien Theatre, Nov. 9 to 28 (live performance), Dec. 2 to 19 (streaming). Tickets available here

A short while into her one-woman show Mixtape, Zorana Sadiq sings a sustained “Gioia” from La Traviata’s Sempre Libera aria which absolutely caught my attention. “That’s an operatic soprano!” I said to myself, and as the play progressed, I was proven to be right.

Judging by the adoring crowd, the lady has a following, but I was not very familiar with her. In fact, Sadiq is something of a polymath. Actor, classical musician, arts educator, vocal coach and multidisciplinary artist, her credits cover theatre, television, chamber music, modern opera and new music.

Mixtape was a genuine surprise because it was totally different from what I expected. I thought I was getting a humorous riff on mixtapes, because the tag for the show asks us if we can remember the first song that we played over and over, the song that we would take the time to rewind the cassette tape for.

What Sadiq gives us, however, is an autobiography, in specific, her training as an opera singer. We also learn about music that influenced her in her life, the art of listening, the philosophy of music, and, oh yes, her troubled Pakistani family.

In fact, anyone with a particular love of opera will find this show fascinating because Sadiq goes into great detail about her training, which includes her relationships with her teachers, one of whom caused Sadiq to lose her love of music. We also learn how she found it again.

Sadiq is an absolutely engaging performer who knows how to work an audience. Sitting or curled up in an oversized chair (designed by Julie Fox), she regales us with her memories, warts and all. Standing only when necessary, Sadiq gives us a show that is homey and folksy, but one that is packed with meaty stuff.

Zorana Sadiq in MIXTAPE (Photo: Aleksandar Antonijevic)
Zorana Sadiq in MIXTAPE (Photo: Aleksandar Antonijevic)

Part and parcel with Sadiq, is sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne, who is also the live sound operator. Every time Sadiq mentions a piece of music, or a musical instrument, or something that needs a sound effect, Payne comes in on cue. In fact, the sound design fits the text like hand to glove, and I can’t remember another show with such a symbiotic relationship between the two. And the use of the flute throughline as ironic commentary is very amusing.

Besides Payne, Sadiq also has the A-team in Arun Srinivasan, who has contributed lighting which is more subtle than the sound by capturing mood in a broader sweep. He does have fun, however, with the judicious use of a spotlight in key moments.

In developing the show, Sadiq worked closely with director Chris Abraham, who did right by her — meaning, he never stifled her voice. I absolutely love Sadiq’s way with language, such as phrases like “the exquisite walled garden of classical music,” or “the music in the glissando of an oven door opening,” or “music makes a hard heart spongy”. Finding new music was a revelation for Sadiq, or as she says, learning she could sing the whole piano, and not just the 19 notes of her vocal range.

If I have one minor complaint, I wish Abraham had added in a beat between topics. In other words, I needed a pause to absorb what Sadiq had been talking about before she launched into something new.

There are some absolutely charming moments in Mixtape. For example, Sadiq’s musical demonstration of how her heartbeat was musical accompaniment to her baby’s more rapid heartbeat in the womb — “Momma, Momma, Momma” over “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here” — a glorious duet if ever there was.

Sadiq’s Mixtape ends by asking the audience to listen to a sizable excerpt from Olivier Messiaen’s monumental Turangalîla-Symphonie (1949). Now this brought back memories for me, because I was at Massey Hall when the Toronto Symphony performed the epic piece for the first time, which included the fascinating electric instrument, the ondes Martenot, played by the composer’s sister-in-law.

Now Messiaen is a big ask. In fact, Mixtape is a big ask. The musical detailing may not be for all markets, but one hopes that Sadiq’s warm and winning personality will carry the day, and bring non music lovers to her wit and wisdom.

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Paula Citron
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Ludwig Van Toronto

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