EVEN now, as the remarkable vaccination programme reaches an operatic crescendo, the Covid pandemic casts a long shadow over Scotland’s performing arts.

Some companies, not least Scottish Opera (which recently began its extensive Pop-Up Opera tour), are offering outdoor productions.

However, with no change in the Scottish Government’s insistence that indoor theatre audiences sit a considerable two metres apart, our playhouses remain shuttered against the plague.

Consequently, we continue to see the release of online work in lieu of live and present stage productions.

The latest filmed offering from Scottish Opera (the pandemic-era output of which has been impressive) is this recording of Donizetti’s delightfully silly comic opera L’elisir d’amore (The elixir of love).

Like most online versions of stage shows, it is an example of a theatrical company using the internet as a lifeboat, a safe haven for its work until it can return to its natural habitat of live performance.

Filmed at Glasgow’s splendid Theatre Royal (our national opera company’s home on the west coast), director Roxana Haines’s production looks like an enhanced version of an archive film a company might make of a dress rehearsal. The enhancements, including a greater number of well-placed cameras and some sharp editing, give the movie the professional look of a filmed for TV live opera.

There are numerous factors that make it obvious that this is not simply a rehearsal of a live show. For a start, the physically distanced orchestra are on the stage, rather than in the pit.

Meanwhile, the chorus, who stand in the stalls, are placed even further apart, on account of the fact that singing poses a particular risk of aerosol transmission of the virus. The carefully distanced lead performers themselves play on a stage that extends over the orchestra pit.

Inevitably, this recorded, physically distanced work is a shadow of what it would have been had it been created for a live audience. Nevertheless, it is to Haines’s tremendous credit that it manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable two hours.

The National:

DONIZETTI’S opera buffa is a standard comic tale of boy meets girl, girl rejects boy, boy becomes influenced by a classical tale of chivalric romance, boy meets shameless snake oil salesman, boy bets his entire future happiness on a dodgy “love elixir” which is, in fact, home brewed red wine.

It isn’t difficult to see why the piece (which Haines and costume designer Emma Butchart have set as a Jane Austen novel) is one of the most popular of Donizetti’s theatre works and a staple of the modern opera repertoire. The music has all of the grandeur and the romantic subtlety that we expect of the Italian opera tradition.

The piece also boasts a series of classic buffo characters: the self-styled “capricious” young woman Adina; her naive, lovelorn admirer Nemorino; the preposterously self-regarding army sergeant Belcore; and the unscrupulous shyster Dulcamara. Haines is a talented, young director, whose outdoor La boheme for Scottish Opera last autumn was a joy.

She draws universally lovely performances from emerging artists Catriona Hewitson (Adina), Shengzhi Ren (Nemorino) and Arthur Bruce (Belcore), and from Elena Garrido Madrona of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s opera school (in the supporting role of Gianetta).

It can only help the development of these young singers that they are joined on-stage by the superb, experienced baritone Roland Wood (who we will soon see live, playing the titular lead in Sir David McVicar’s Falstaff) in the role of Dulcamara.

Even on screen, Wood’s wonderfully comic, beautifully sung performance is a palpable operatic masterclass.

L’elisir d’amore is available to watch via YouTube and the Scottish Opera website: scottishopera.org.uk