Presented By
Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac (1922 - 2008) performs at the Royal Albert Hall in London, 1952.
George Douglas—Getty Images

Tuesday marks what would have been the 94th birthday of the Peruvian singer known as Yma Sumac, who was born Sept. 13, 1922, and became known worldwide for a vocal range that spanned at least four octaves.

In August of 1950, Sumac performed for an audience of 6,000 at the Hollywood Bowl. Her trilling soprano voice—which earned her the nickname ‘Peruvian Songbird’—surprised and thrilled the crowd, previously unfamiliar with her range, according to a TIME review of the concert:

Get your history fix in one place: sign up for the weekly TIME History newsletter

The audience’s gusto was tempered only by guest conductor Arthur Fielder, who—running late for another engagement—directed the orchestra into Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slav to end the evening, cutting short the applause. After that night, Sumac’s career vaulted to an entirely new level, according to the concert review.

Sumac, who died in 2008 in Los Angeles at the age of 86, wowed crowds for decades, and performed well into the 1980s.

Read the full review from 1950, here in the TIME Vault: Daughter of the Sun God

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Mahita Gajanan at

You May Also Like