Anne Boleyn; Elizabeth I; Mary Stuart: Donizetti’s three queens might wear English and Scottish crowns, but it’s Italian fire and ice that runs in their veins. Passionate, imperious and devout, they’re the musical mothers of Verdi’s Luisa Miller and Desdemona – a relationship you can hear clearly in this exhilarating release from soprano Diana Damrau.

Diana Damrau album artwork

Avoiding a sequence of bel canto lollipops, Damrau instead opts for three great final scenes – the climactic final conversations, prayers and deaths that close each opera in Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy. Commercially trickier to pitch, dramatically it’s much more satisfying – giving both Damrau and her listeners a run-up to the climactic arias, rooting them in character and context.

Damrau’s bel canto technique is secure...