Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac was world-renowned for her vocal range. Né Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo (Sept. 13, 1922), Sumac was raised in the mountains of Peru, where she grew up singing to her surroundings, imagining rocks as members of her audience.
Her foray into the big time came via an invitation to sing on an Argentine radio station that would prove to be life-altering: “After that moment, her astonishing five-octave vocal range captivated audiences in South America and beyond,” says Google, marking the late singer’s 94th birthday. “Yma arrived in the United States in 1946 and was signed by Capitol Records shortly after. During her 1950s prime, she sung at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and Royal Albert Hall – to name a few.”
At her peak, Sumac was famous for donning flamboyant costumes and ornate jewelry, resembling the Incan royalty from which she reputedly came. The government of Peru circa 1946 supported her claim to be descended from Atahualpa, the last Incan emperor.
Sumac passed away in 2008 in Los Angeles, CA, after a nine-month battle of cancer. May she rest in power.