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Yma Sumac

Yma Sumac (; September 13, 1922 (birth certificate) or September 10, 1922 (later documents) – November 1, 2008), was a Peruvian coloratura soprano. In the 1950s, she was one of the most famous exponents of exotica music.

Sumac became an international success based on her extreme vocal range. She had six-and-a-half octaves according to some reports, but other reports (and recordings) document four-and-a-half at the peak of her singing career. (A typical trained singer has a range of about three octaves.)

In one live recording of "Chuncho", she sings a range of over four and a half octaves, from B2 to G7. She was able to sing notes in the low baritone register as well as notes above the range of an ordinary soprano and notes in the whistle register. Both low and high extremes can be heard in the song "Chuncho (The Forest Creatures)" (1953). She was also apparently able to sing in a remarkable "double voice".

In 1954, classical composer Virgil Thomson described Sumac's voice as "very low and warm, very high and birdlike", noting that her range "is very close to five octaves, but is in no way inhuman or outlandish in sound." In 2012, audio recording restoration expert John H. Haley favorably compared Sumac's tone to opera singers Isabella Colbran, Maria Malibran, and Pauline Viardot. He described Sumac's voice as not having the "bright penetrating peal of a true coloratura soprano", but having in its place "an alluring sweet darkness ... virtually unique in our time."

Birth and Death Data: Born September 10th, 1922 (Cajamarca;Callao), Died November 1st, 2008 (Los Angeles)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1943

Roles Represented in DAHR: vocalist


Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Decca OA-12504 1943 Indian love Yma Sumac vocalist  
Decca OA-12505 1943 La benita Yma Sumac vocalist  
Decca OA-12506 1943 One love Yma Sumac vocalist  
Decca OA-12512 1943 Beautiful eyes Yma Sumac vocalist  
Decca OA-12513 1943 The humming bird Yma Sumac vocalist  
Decca OA-12516 1943 Cholitas punenas Yma Sumac vocalist  
Decca OA-12536 1943 I love only you Yma Sumac vocalist  
Decca OA-12537 1943 The sun maidens Yma Sumac vocalist  


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Sumac, Yma," accessed June 24, 2021,

Sumac, Yma. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from

"Sumac, Yma." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 24 June 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier



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