All of your favorites, in one place.
The "Nightingale of the Andes", the voice of birds and earthquakes, the Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac was the most singular and vivacious of recording artists. Her other-worldly vocal gymnastics, a freakish four octave range delivered with sensitivity and power, were without peer in her day and still sound like nothing on Earth. Her natural versatility was such that the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla advised her to sing spontaneously and to avoid formal music teaching at all costs.
The Quintessence spans the halcyon days of the 1950s, featuring the six albums which, taken together, have permanently crystallised the myth of Yma Sumac. From the torrid landscape of sensual exoticism that is the Voice of the Xtabay - her genre-defining, best-selling collaboration with Les Baxter - through the hot mambos and languid perfumed psychedelia which underpins her subsequent North American productions, created by her conductor, composer and (then) husband, Moises Vivanco.
The triumphs of Voice of the Xtabay were but a prelude to the international successes Yma was about to enjoy. In the sixties, a mammoth tour of Russia found her performing to a total of 70 million spectators. The campaign lasted six months and culminated in ten nights at the Tchaikovsky Opera House and meetings with Premier Khrushchev and the composers Shostakovich and Khachaturian.
Legend has it that Yma was an authentic Incan princess, a descendant of Atahualpa, the last king of the Incas, who was slain by the Spanish in 1533. “She was definitely an Inca Princess,” said Les Baxter, “but she was South American, plus Inca, you know, mestizo. Unfortunately, that made for a very volatile person, very temperamental, very fiery. One moment she was, ‘I love you, you are marvellous, I kill you!’ All in one paragraph. And she really did say, ‘I kill you’. I thought I was going to die right there and then. But she was a marvellous talent. I think she was really mad at me but I don't know why."
'Yma was in a league of her own... with her voice she knew how to create sounds that perhaps no other human being was capable of making." - Juan Garcia Esquivel