Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac, known for her astounding vocal range and for her unusual readings of folkloric South American music, died Nov. 2 in Los Angeles after a lengthy battle with colon cancer. She was 86 years old.

Born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri Del Castillo, Sumac said she never received formal vocal training. But her talent had been apparent since she was a little girl and began performing in Peru and later in Argentina. In the early 1950s, while performing in New York, she was signed to Capitol Records. Sumac quickly drew world attention, thanks to a prodigious voice that spanned a five-octave range, and her renditions of traditional Peruvian music with orchestral accompaniments.

Her first album, “Voice of The Xtabay,” was a great success, and she was able to tour the world and performed in venues as significant as Carnegie Hall and The Hollywood Bowl—rare for a Latin act at the time. She was also a Las Vegas regular who captivated audiences not just with her voice, but with her exotic looks, costumes and rare music.

Sumac’s last album was a psychedelic rock recording, “Miracles,” released in 1971. She then went into semi-retirement, but resurfaced in the 1990s and continued to tour, mostly through Europe, until 1997. In 2006, she traveled to her native Peru and was honored with “La Orden del Sol,” considered the Peruvian government’s highest honor for achievement.

Sumac’s website says a “very, very private” funeral will be held at an
undisclosed location. She will be buried in Hollywood, where she lived for
nearly 60 years. She is survived by a son, Charles, who lives in Europe.

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