Nick Cave teams up with composer Nicholas Lens for “lockdown opera” ‘L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S’

"I realised I had been writing litanies all my life."

Nick Cave has teamed up with Belgian composer Nicholas Lens to release ‘L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S’, his self described “lockdown opera”.

Lens, who is known internationally for his 2012 opera ‘Slow Man’, began working on the project after he found himself at a loose end during lockdown and began exploring his home city of Brussels by bike.

According to an official release, the city’s eerie stillness reminded him of a past visit he made to Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture, home to some of the most ancient and highly treasured Buddhist temples in the world.


He explained: “The initial idea for L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S was born in the natural silence that rises from the rainy and vivid green forest that surrounds these 13th-century temples. And because my memory works in musical phrases, writing L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S has become my method of remembering the peace I found while visiting Japan as well.”

After his initial inspiration, Lens recruited Cave to write the words for his compositions – having previously collaborated on the 2014 opera ‘Shell Shock’, which focuses on the horrors of war.

“I wanted to work with someone who was fresh to the field of opera; someone who was most believable and authentic in the way they would use words. Nick was obviously that person,” Lens added.

Describing his involvement, Cave explained: “Nicholas called me during lockdown and asked if I would write 12 litanies. I happily agreed. The first thing I did after I put down the phone was search ‘What is a litany?’ I learned that a litany was a series of religious petitions, and realised I had been writing litanies all my life.”

Cave went on to write 12 lyrical pieces, which he describes as “petitions to a divine maker demanding some sort of cosmic acknowledgement”.


The recording involved a “modest” change ensemble of people who were around Lens during lockdown, including his own daughter, Clara-Lane.

“In the end, all of this was recorded in one room, so it literally is chamber music!,” Lens added.

L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S is released via Deutsche Grammophon on 4th December 2020.

Tomorrow, Cave will also host an online “listen-along” for the soundtrack to 2012 film Lawless next month via the Bad Seed TeeVee channel.

Cave wrote the film’s screenplay, based on Matt Bondurant’s historical novel The Wettest County in the World, and composed the score alongside Ellis.

The online listening party, dubbed Cold Cases, will be accompanied by behind-the-scenes photos and a live discussion with Cave and Ellis along with the film’s director John Hillcoat and photographer Polly Borland.