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Optimism explored in Candide with Lethbridge Opera Workshop and Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra

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You may remember  Hunter Semrau for his spirited portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis.
in New West Theatre’s production of the Million Dollar Quartet in September. But expect  to see a completely different character this weekend, Feb. 8 and 9 at Southminster United Church as he plays the title role of Candide in The University of Lethbridge Opera Workshop Hunter Semrau plays the title character in Candide. Photo by Richard Ameryand Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra’s annual collaboration.

“They’re two completely different characters. Jerry Lee Lewis was a bit of a jerk and really full of himself. Candide is a caricature of the most honest self, purity and niceness,” Semrau described, noting  playing Jerry Lee Lewis was a departure for him as his major is opera performance.
“I love musical theatre too, but this is what I’m studying,” he said adding Candide is an interesting, relentlessly optimistic character.
“He (Voltaire) was making fun of  the way other philosophers looked at how mankind viewed how everything works out for the best,” he said.

“ He remains optimistic no matter what happens to him,” he continued adding a lot happens to Candide, who is flogged, gets kidnapped by the Spanish Inquisition and gets shipwrecked after being taken in by a con man who sells him a leaky boat. On top of that, he is in love with a woman who is not only a thief, but a selfish grifter.

“He’s in love with Cunegonde but while they’re separated she ends up being greedy, graspy and selfish. She gets close to men in order to separate them from their money,” he continued.

He is excited to be part of the  production and backed by the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra.

“ All of those seats will be occupied,” he said indicating chairs set on stage surrounded by a few basic set pieces and a ramp jutting into to the middle of the audience.

“Blaine (Hendsbee, director and conductor) will be in the middle. He has choreographed every moment, almost every note we’re to come in on,” he continued, adding the cast will be able to see Hendsbee on a monitor set in front of the stage.The cast and crew are excited for Candide, this year’s collaboration between the U of l Opera Workshop and Lethbridge Symphony. Photo by Richard Amery

 “We‘re supposed to look at it  every three or four seconds because he’s cuing us. And with 40 people behind us, they’re not stopping for any missed step,” he said.

“ And there’s two completely different casts, so if you come twice, you will see two different shows,” he said.

He is excited to perform with the orchestra.

“It’s been great watching this come together with costumes, music and set,” he said.

“It feels so amazing performing with an orchestra. This is a leading role. I only performed a few excerpts last year.  There is so much power behind us. It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you have 40 people behind you making you look good,” he chuckled.

“Don’t be put off by the fact it was written in the mid 1700s. It is still very funny,” Semrau enthused.
Candide, Leonard Bernstein’s beloved operetta based on  the work of French philosopher Voltaire is at 7:30 p.m. each night at Southmnster United Church. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9. Tickets range  from $25 to $60.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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