Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I recently learned that the Peruvian singer Yma Sumac, the Nightingale of the Andes, died earlier this month. A soprano with a five octave range (her first husband proclaimed "Never in 2,000 years has there been another voice like hers"), Sumac was wildly popular in the 1950's.

Born in Peru on September 13, 1922, Sumac began singing at age 9. She and her first husband moved to New York City in 1946, where she performed as part of a trio before embarking upon her solo career. Her remarkable voice could emulate bird cries and wild animals, and she incorporated spectacular costumes into her theatrical acts. A diva in the truest and finest sense of the word, she cultivated a glamorous and mysterious persona, even claiming to be descended from an Incan emperor.

Sumac embodied the creativity, power, and majesty of the Empress card. The image she created and presented to audiences flowed organically from her talent and immense personality.