Nov 28, 2020
Diana Damrau’s Tudor Queens, a survey of heroines from three Donizetti operas, is nothing short of terrific. This is a singer with technical chops that can’t be beat and dramatic sensibilities to match. What can go wrong? Not much.
All of her selections hail from the concluding acts of three Donizetti operas: Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux. In each, Damrau demonstrates extraordinary control of her instrument, impeccable diction, and spot-on intonation.
Her top notes in “Piangete voi?” from Anna Bolena, for instance, are effortless. So, too, her ornamentations in the same’s “Al dolce guidama” and “Coppia iniqua”: everything she does here unfolds with utter naturalness.
Damrau’s breath control and execution of her part’s roulades in arias from Maria Stuarda is likewise impressive. She holds the high G in “Deh! Tu di un umile” for what seems like an eternity; brings a breathtakingly light touch the line in “Di un cor” – regardless of where the part leads in register or tempo; and nails a high D at the end of “Ah! se un giorno” for good measure.
OK, the last is totally gratuitous – but who’s going to argue when the gesture works so well?
Damrau actually does the same thing at the end of “Quel sangue” from Devereux; again, the trick works flawlessly. Even more striking, though, are the fervent, floating high notes of “E Sara in questi orribili momenti” with which she begins her scene from that opera.
Accompanying Damrau is the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and conductor Antonio Pappano. The orchestral accompaniments snap, particularly in Anna Bolena’s “Chi può vederla” and Roberto Devereux’s “Che m’apporti?.”
The choral contributions are relatively few, though often intense, sometimes a shade flat. A handful of soloists join Damrau for cameos and, while everybody’s well-balanced, none steal her spotlight. This album is, after all, Damrau’s show, and she owns it.