“The Cold Song” is an aria from the semi-opera of 1691, King Arthur, music by Henry Purcell (and a libretto by John Dryden). In semi-opera, also known as”dramatick opera” the principal characters do not sing, unless they are supernatural, pastoral or drunk!
We recently came across the supernatural looking and deeply affecting, octave-shifted version of one of its Bass arias by countertenor Klaus Nomi performed on television in Germany in 1981.
Nomi is an iconic figure from the early New York New Wave scene in the late 70s, who had trained in classical singing in his native land of Germany before moving to America to collaborate and influence the scene which changed the pop music aesthetic forever.
We liked his version so much and since we thought this performance, and the man himself, were so significant, we wanted to honour his work on this aria by encouraging other singers to adopt it in this range. It will of course also be helpful for basses who are developing in the role of The Cold Genius, since the accompaniment is in the original key.
Here’s a bass version performed in the awesome, imposing tones of Dingle Yandell:
There are also interpretations on YouTube performed by women in Nomi’s register, so there’s lots in this short but challenging aria to provide a first class vocal workout for everyone, especially anyone working on staccato.
The song depicts the involuntary awakening of the spirit of winter from his long slumber by cupid who says:
What ho! thou genius of this isle, what ho!
Liest thou asleep beneath those hills of snow?
Stretch out thy lazy limbs. Awake, awake!
And winter from thy furry mantle shake.
To which he replies as he reluctantly awakens…
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow?
See’st thou not how stiff and wondrous old,
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath?
Let me, let me freeze again to death.
Find The Cold Song piano accompaniment at YourAccompanist.com. We would love to see your interpretations!