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This Russian mezzo soprano, more correctly described as a mezzo contralto, worked for some time in the shadow of her younger colleague Olga Borodina; but since coming to international fame, she has made up for lost time. Her dark, immensely powerful voice, rising from timber-rattling chest tones to a focused penetrating top, makes so bold a sound as to arrest the attention of the most distracted audiences. Her fiery temperament in the big Russian and Italian dramatic roles is evident everywhere, but never allowed to spill over into self-indulgence. She is both a vivid and credible personage on-stage, and she has achieved equal success as a concert singer, winning the support of major conductors.
Although there is some question about her exact date of birth, most sources agree on 1955 as the year. After studies at the Leningrad Conservatory, she was engaged by the Kirov Opera in 1978 and made slow but steady progress through the ranks and into leading roles. In 1984, Diadkova was a winner in the Glinka competition, but found the international recognition was somewhat at arms length owing to the stunning presence of the somewhat more glamorous Borodina. Still, once the Soviet Union crumbled and Leningrad became St. Petersburg once more, the increase in touring by the Kirov obliged the company to put forth all of their most qualified artists. In addition, many Kirov singers, so carefully groomed by music director Valery Gergiev, chose to pursue more lucrative careers in the West, making greater opportunities for others on the roster.
Diadkova not only sang more important engagements, but was also offered more opportunities to record her core repertory. She filled highest expectations as both Pauline and the Countess in Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame, also achieving high marks for her Duenna in Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery, Lyubov in Mazeppa, Nezhata in Sadko, Marfa in Khovanshchina, Konchakovna in Prince Igor, Ratmir in Glinka's Russlan and Ludmilla, Kashcheyevna in Kashchey the Immortal, and Olga in Yevgeny Onegin. Moreover, she was increasingly heard in Verdi roles for which her huge, flame-like voice was perfectly suited. When Gergiev discussed his forthcoming 2001 Aida in a tour of Great Britain, he boasted of Diadkova, saying "she is tremendous," noting further that she was a part of the first cast, while Borodina was to sing with the second cast.
When Diadkova sang in the San Francisco Opera's Betrothal in a Monastery in 1998, one reviewer maintained that he heard in her voice and style "a sure-fire Azucena." She has since sung that role with great success at the Metropolitan Opera in 1999 and has proven herself an exemplary Ulrica at both Verona and Dallas. In addition to London, her Amneris has been heard at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and in Houston. In April 2001, she sang Mistress Quickly with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic at the Salzburg Easter Festival (a role she also recorded with the same forces). Critic Richard Fairman of the London Financial Times found her characterization that of "a well-meaning auntie," but noted that her "rasping chest tones" clearly equipped her for other grander Verdi mezzo roles.
In 1999, Diadkova's performance of the Shostakovich edition of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death with Mstislav Rostropovich and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra transfixed a conference of music critics, causing some to wonder if she was being amplified (she wasn't).