THE loss of innocence and idealism through the corruption of the wicked is a major theme of Tosca, which like many other of Puccini’s works is not overburdened with symbolism.

Yet performances and direction can draw out the composer’s intentions to a greater or lesser degree, and Welsh National Opera here took on the theme with gusto.

Hector Sandoval has a voice at the lighter end of the spinto tenor scale and his Mario Cavaradossi - painter and lover, tortured but unyielding rebel and ultimately victim of fate - seemed less cynical and worldly-wise than other portrayals.

In particular, his grim opening aria for Act 3 was particularly haunting, with the set completely cleared of guards and bystanders, inducing a sense of hopelessness. It seemed much more as though this Mario actually hoped to survive the ‘fake’ execution, with its mocking horn accompaniment.

Claire Rutter was excellent and at times left the reviewer transfixed.

Her Tosca was convincingly transformed from ingenue diva to broken and distraught killer.

Her voice was light and agile and moved smoothly between fragility, horror and declamation. I found her acting most convincing in the subtler sections, in particular her responses to Scarpia at the palace and the Act 3 duet, and a little less so in the more melodramatic sections.

As for Scarpia, American Mark S Doss was quite brilliant in the role - which is undoubtedly one of the greatest in opera.

A strong punchy baritone, he chewed up the stage with an elegant but menacing flamboyance - at times fastidious, at times revelling in his forthcoming conquest - not to mention a suitably louche silk gown.

He was overall the best Scarpia I have seen performed live, mixing beauty with brutality.

The supporting cast were good, particularly Daniel Grice as Angelotti, although some struggled to be heard over the orchestra. Once again I found myself grateful that we have such superb companies as WNO bringing opera to the seaside.