YMA-SUMAC.COM: Miss Sumac, I think it is best to start off with all of the rumors and mysteries first, just to get them out of the way. I know the truth, but it seems so many people don't.
Y.S.: Yes, OK.
WHY DO YOU THINK THIS "AMY CAMUS FROM BROOKLYN" RUMOR HAS LASTED SO LONG?
Y.S.: Because people like to bring down those who are at the top. This started in the early 50's, and it is ridiculous that people still ask this question. A person with a 5 octave voice would not have to lie about where they came from! It would make no difference WHERE they came from! For the record, I am from Peru, but have spent most of my life in the United States.
DID YOU HAVE VOCAL OR CLASSICAL TRAINING?
Y.S.: No. I just sing and what comes out is what you hear. When I was a little girl I didn't know my voice was any different than anyone else's. In 1952 I studied Bel Canto a little bit. I have sang arias in my concerts for many years; Vissi d'Arte, O Mio Babbino Caro and others.
Y.S.: A VERY difficult piece 'The Magical Flute' from Mozart, as well as the arias I spoke of a minute ago. I sang many Italian arias. I have given you some tapes to put on this computer thing you are doing here.
Y.S.: Well, in the 50's I went to Italy and a very important critic said to me, "Madam Sumac, with all due respect, here in Italy we have the greatest singers in the world. So do not expect the same kind of reviews you received everywhere else in the world." I raised one eyebrow, but said nothing. That night, I did 'The Magical Flute' and my voice was the flute! I got a standing ovation for over 20 minutes! Afterwards the critic did not come to my dressing room to visit...he left! (laughs). That same night, a VERY big name singer came up to me and said, "Miss Sumac...PLEASE stick with your OWN music! When you sing operatic arias the way you did tonight, we can't compete with you! We are supposed to be the best, you know!"
DO YOU STILL SING?
Y.S. Yes, but not too often. I sang all my life and traveled all my life, signed millions of autographs and posed for a million pictures. It was great, but now I have other priorities. So I perform only on rare occasions these days.
HOW EXCITING! WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
Y.S.: I exercise my voice and of course my body too. I do not want to lose my abilities! I spend time with trusted friends. I like to see the television too. Have you seen that Mr. Springer show? My God! The people fighting and the things they say! I watch that when I want a break from educational TV!
YOU HAVE ENORMOUS ENERGY. OF COURSE I WILL NOT ASK YOUR AGE (brief pause) BUT I AM CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH REGIMENS.
Y.S.: I have never been TRULY sick! I am very lucky that way. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and non-fried chicken. I take all natural multiple vitamins and Ginkgo. I also take extra garlic capsules and vitamin C. I wake everyday at 5.a.m but stay in bed a little longer, then prepare for the day. Rest is very important. After my concerts, I have always went directly to my hotel room, removed my makeup and went to the bed. To keep my voice and health in shape, I had to do this. Other singers, I won't say any names, went out to parties every night and did the cha-cha-cha and pa-pa-pa and drank liquor all night. Their health and vocals didn't last.
DID YOU EVER MARRY AGAIN AFTER MOISES VIVANCO?
Y.S.: No. Once was enough. I was always a very busy woman. My art came first.
EVERYONE LIKES TO TALK ABOUT YOUR CONNECTION TO LES BAXTER. IT IS SAID YOU DID NOT GET A LONG WITH HIM.
Y.S. (bristling): He wanted credit for EVERYTHING! BOTH he and Moises took credit for many of MY compositions! I am not only a singer, you know. ALL of the improvisations on my records were my idea. They came off the top of my head, from within. Mr. Baxter wanted credit for all my success! NO! Outrageous. Such an ego. His followers can believe whatever they like, but I know the truth.
YET YOU WORKED ON 'MIRACLES' WITH HIM AGAIN, IN 1970.
Y.S.: Again, another bad experience. I do like very much though, 'Magenta Mountain' from that record.
WHAT DID YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOUR SUCCESS?
Y.S. :I started very young, on radio shows near where I lived. I kept this a secret at first, even from my parents! But they found out, and eventually accepted it. They were very upset though, when I left Peru to come to America. When they saw the great success all over the world, they supported my choice. They came to many of my concerts. My mother was a great woman. She was very strong, but she also had a very gentle side. She never let a lost cat or dog go hungry, or any children. My father was a very good man and supported anything I did. My sisters have always lived in Peru and still do today.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SONGS FROM YOUR RECORDS?
Y.S.: I love Montana, from the Sun Virgin record, because it is sung to a child. Of course I love Taita Inty.
WHY DID YOU NOT MAKE MANY MOVIES?
Y.S.: I did two for Paramount in the 50's. I was too busy touring almost every year. I was recording a lot too. I did some films in Mexico though, that not many people know of. 'Musica De Siempre' and 'Las Canciones Unidos' in the late 50's, but I also did some much earlier. I usually only sang in them anyway! Music was more important to me, always.
YOU HAVE ALWAYS WORN THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY STAGE COSTUMES. WHO CAME UP WITH THE DESIGNS?
Y.S.: I did, along with some of the best designers around the world. They would collaborate with me.
YOU ARE A LEGEND IN A CLASS ALL YOUR OWN.
Y.S.: If the people say I am a legend...well, maybe I am a legend.