When the audience are in their seats, he wants them to see someone on stage "who delivers, who doesn't hold back on energy or effort and who has attitude". At the moment Malaga's most famous baritone, Carlos Álvarez, is once again giving all of himself to a character: until 10 December he is playing Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House in London. This is not the first time that he has given voice to the corsair who became the Doge of Genoa, nor is it his first time on the iconic London stage, but there is something new about it: he has never played this role in this theatre before.
The baritone is starring in this Verdi opera in a production which has a Renaissance air, directed by Elijah Moshinsky. Álvarez says it is an "absolutely honest" version of what the score and the libretto say.
Although it was first performed in Venice in 1857, it was the revised version of 1881 which made this a repertory opera after its debut at La Scala in Milan, and that is the one which is now being performed in London.
Álvarez insists that sticking to tradition doesn't mean being stale or outdated. He believes in "serving this profession from the point of view of tradition" and not upsetting the public. In his view, the innovations in readings of classic operas, most of the time, have more to do with "personal situations of the directors who want to put some of their own conflicts on stage to try to seduce younger audiences". He, however, believes the way to attract new generations is to offer them quality performances and reasonable ticket prices. In that sense, he says 'Simon Boccanegra' is a "very suitable" work with which to continue to enthuse the public about opera.
The conductor on this occasion is Hungarian Henrik Nánási, who knows the Royal Opera House well as he has conducted productions such as Salomé, The Barber of Seville and Turandot. Playing opposite Carlos Álvarez is Armenian soprano Hrachuhi Bassenz in the role of Boccanegra's daughter; she made her successful debut at the Royal Opera House two seasons ago. The cast is completed by the Italian tenor Francesco Meli, Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, American baritone Mark Rucker and South African bass Simon Shibambu.
Álvarez will be saying goodbye to the present year in London before facing a 2019 which is already filled with commitments all over the world, including Malaga. He is undaunted at the prospect, convinced that his is not a profession to make a living, but "so that people can change their state of mind and feel better".
That is a philosophy that he maintains on stage and in his personal life: "I nearly always take a positive view of what is happening around me, and if things are bad then I try to learn something from them," he says.