The powerful emotions at the heart of Tosca – happiness, sadness and love – are something everyone has felt at some point, says Gwyn Hughes Jones.
Which makes Puccini’s classic story of passion, lust, jealousy and political intrigue, an ideal “first opera” for people looking to discover this most glorious art form, said the Welsh tenor.
“Tosca is a fantastic piece to start with,” said the tenor, who is keen to break down any barriers which might put people off trying opera.
“My experience of people coming to opera for the first time is that for the most part they enjoy it enormously and are keen to come again.
“And Tosca is an incredibly compelling story and it’s full of the same kind of emotions and sentiments that we all feel. We all feel happiness and love and anger and jealousy. People can relate to the storyline.”
Gwyn sings the role of painter Cavaradossi in Scottish Opera’s production which will be at His Majesty’s Theatre next week.
It’s a part he has performed countless times with some of the most famous opera companies on some of the most iconic stages around the world. But he never tires of either the opera or the role and is enjoying this version.
“It is part of the backbone of the operatic repertoire and one of the classic stories and classic pieces in opera,” said Gwyn.
“It is set in Rome during the Second World War which is an update from the original version, but it has the same situations as the original and doesn’t suffer at all from that.
“It’s about the relationship between two people and someone from the outside who wants to possess one of the characters and the consquences of that.
“As for the music, it is written by one of the greatest operatic composers of all time, Giacomo Puccini. It is full of great tunes and big, beautiful pictures.”
And he finds he constantly discovers new aspects to the character each time he takes it on.
“The more I sing it and perform it, the more I realise I have to learn about the piece,” he said. “You discover new things about the piece and about yourself, too.”
Gwyn said he finds himself drawn to the humanity and whirlwind of emotions that Cavaradossi goes through as he finds himself the target of sadistic police chief Scarpia, jealous of the painter’s relationship with glamorous opera singer, Tosca.
“The character has lot of dimension. He’s not a heroic character as such, he happens to be a very successful artist, as successful in his discipline as Tosca is in hers,” he said.
“For him life is very good at the beginning of the piece and he becomes collateral damage in the bigger story. The challenge is to always show the pristine ideal of that happiness at the beginning of the show, which is gradually undermined.
“You go from a point of pursuing the things in life you want, but the course of the story brings the character to appreciate what really is important and understand what you really value.”
All of that comes together in the huge aria, E lucevan le stelle, in which Cavaradossi sings of his passion for life.
“It is one of the iconic arias of the repertoire and it is an incredibly profound piece, because this man has had everything taken away from him,” said Gwyn.
Tosca is at His Majesty’s Theatre on Thursday and Saturday next week, with a dementia friendly performance on Friday at 3pm.