The stratospheric colarature soprano, Ellen Beach Yaw, or Ellen Beach, was gifted with a high voice so spectacular and controlled that only the 1950s novelty singer Yma Sumac rivaled its range. Since few roles, before Ariel in Thomas Ades' "The Tempest," feature very high voice, her performing career tended toward the concert rather than the opera stage. She emerged as an international talent in the 1890s, had a brief episode performing for the D'Oyley Carte Opera company, and a minor opera career in Italy.
While the period of her greatest prominence as a live performer extended from 1895 to 1905, Beach's lasting contribution to singing may have been her many recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Hers was a voice that cut through the aural static of the wax cylinder medium and was one of the first that suggested something of the authentic expressive force of artful song in recordings.
Beach ultimately settled in southern California, became a civic personality, and remained a focus of California's musical community until the 1920s. David S. Shields/ALS