With Glasgow’s Theatre Royal shut for improvement, this year’s collaboration between Scottish Opera and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was not a fully staged opera performance, but a concert performance at the Queen’s Hall welcoming back recent graduates Michel de Souza and Elin Prichard and featuring present students from the Opera School, alongside one of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artists, soprano Sarah Power. The intriguing programme was of music and opera inspired by the novels of Sir Walter Scott, something of a personal dream of John Wallace, Principal of the Conservatoire, as he introduced us to this evening of a mix of familiar and lesser-known music from the corners of the repertoire. In the 19th century, there was a lively European interest in Scotland, with its stories of battles and myths and Scott’s tales provided fertile sources for several classical composers.

It was a treat to see the orchestra of Scottish Opera resplendent on the concert platform instead of tucked away mainly out of sight under the stage, and also for young conductor Fergus Macleod to take charge for the popular opening piece, the overture The Land of the Mountain and the Flood. Composed by the 19-year-old Hamish McCunn who took the title from Scott’s The Lay of the Last Minstrel, it is essentially a Victorian portrait of Caledonia, full of tunes which at times seem to echo from mountainsides. This was an exciting and lively interpretation, with the brass on particularly rousing form, building to an exhilarating finale.

Vincenzo Bellini’s last opera, and a favourite of Queen Victoria, was I Puritani, a story set in England’s Civil War, based on Scott’s Old Mortality. Riccardo had been promised Elvira’s hand in marriage, but finds her in love with Arturo, a Royalist. Michel de Souza sang Riccardo’s lovesick Act I cavatina “Ah! Per sempre... Bel sogno beato” in a rich baritone. Soprano Elin Prichard’s “Qui la voce... Vien, diletto” is the Act II “mad scene” where Elvira believes she has lost Arturo, and bemoans her fate.  Prichard has a clear pure top to her voice which opened out to a big-toned, thrilling finish in this challenging aria.

Rossini’s comic operas are always in mainstream repertoire, but his more serious works perhaps deserve more exposure. La Donna del Lago (“The Lady of the Lake”) was the first of the Italian operas to be based on Scott’s works. In a complicated and political plot involving James V, Elena loves Malcolm but is forced to marry Rodrigo. Soprano Hazel McBain’s Elena and Eirlys Davies taking the mezzo trouser role of Malcolm in the Act I duet “Vivere io non potro” produced some finely blended singing, sensitively supported by the orchestra.

On more familiar ground, two excepts from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor followed, where Prichard, Davies and de Souza were joined by student singers Joseph Oparamanuike, Andreas Backlund and Arshak Kuzikyan in the famous Act II sextet “Che mi frena in tal momento”. It was fascinating to watch the singers take on the roles even in concert performance, particularly Prichard’s Lucia, the pawn in this amorous struggle. Her Act II duet “Apprestati... il pallor funesto” with de Souza’s Enrico was a dramatic unhappy affair with characters in fierce temper, a strongly and exhilaratingly sung tour de force.

Hector Berlioz’s very early overture Waverley, marked Op. 1, inspired by the atmosphere of the novel, came next. Long oboe notes heralded slow sighing phrases from the strings before the music brightened into unmistakeably Berlioz trademark motifs. Stuart Stratford, who conducted everything apart from the opening McCunn, seemed to have a particular rapport with this orchestra, at times merely flickering his fingers to bring in players. Although permitting the band to get a touch boisterous in parts, he was otherwise sensitive to the singers’ needs.

Rounding the concert off were three excerpts from Bizet’s lively La Jolie Fille de Perth. Tenor Luperci de Souza as Henri Smith, the blacksmith sang a lovely serenade to the fair maid Catharine Glover, “A la voix”, taking the music right down to pianissimo against hushed plucked strings. A bell chime announced his apprentice’s lugubrious and wonderful drinking song “Quand la flame de l’amour”, thrillingly sung by bass Arshak Kuzikyan, who clearly loved every second. The Act I finale, with Duet, Trio, Quartet and more was a rousing send off, with Scottish Opera Emerging Artist soprano Sarah Power singing the Fair Maid, torn between Henri Smith and the Duke of Rothesay as the act ends in a scene of confusion.

“Scott’s Opera” was an evening of surprising fun and wonderful singing. It was a glittering showcase for opera singers trained or training in Scotland, and made a convincing case for some serious reappraisal of this romantic repertoire. A real treat.