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 G♯7. 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, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/345825.
Sumac, Yma. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/345825.
"Sumac, Yma." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 24 June 2021.
DAHR Persistent Identifier
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