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In Performance: Cave by Tansy Davies and Nick Drake

Cave by Tansy Davies and Nick Drake
In the cavernous warehouse space of Printworks London, this chamber opera follows a grieving father's (Mark Padmore) quest for survival in a world devastated by climate change. Desperate to connect one last time with his daughter (Elaine Mitchener), he enters a dark cave, triggering a journey into an underworld of spirits. Cave was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber Composition in 2019 and was directed by Lucy Bailey, designed by Mike Britton and conducted by Geoffrey Paterson.This project furthers the successful collaboration between composer Tansy Davies and writer Nick Drake following their opera Between Worlds (2015) which won the 2016 British Composers Award for Stage Work.


1. The Lost River 0:00 
Leaving the chaos and ruin of the near-future world.
Descending a dry underground riverbed into the darkness of a cave. 

2. The Echoes 0:20
A Man enters after a long, arduous journey. He has been here before with his daughter Hannah. He communes with the cave and its echoes. He prepares a hallucinogenic brew.

3. The Cave of Birds 12:47
He drinks the brew. The dawn chorus of an enchanted forest rises – until the roar of a military jet overhead, destroys the vision. 

4. The Mirror Cracks 24:10
The boundaries between worlds break down. Agonised by grief, the man shape-shifts. 

5. The Tree of Shadows 29:10
A hot afternoon. At the top of a rocky canyon, a tree grows. 
The Man and Hannah are together. They talk about her plans and dreams. A church bell tolls… 

6. The Storm 35:54
A storm breaks. Rain falls in the dark.
They sing together, as Hannah’s spirit goes.  

7. The River 43:20
the waters of a lost river rise and flow.
The Man returns to the world, Hannah's voice entwined in his.  

Browse through the concert programme from June 2018

Mark Padmore gives a powerhouse performance The Guardian
Strikingly atmospheric " The Times
Flawless " The Telegraph

Mark Padmore tenor
Elaine Mitchener mezzo-soprano
Geoffrey Paterson conductor
Sound Intermedia sound design
Tansy Davies composer
Nick Drake libretto
Lucy Bailey director
Mike Britton designer
Jack Knowles lighting designer

Go behind the scenes

Returning to Cave

In January 2020, the creative team gathered to look back at the journey of Cave from conception to realisation, with discussions around its connections to grief and climate change. Listen to this live discussion with host Zoë Martlew and a panel including composer Tansy Davies, librettist Nick Drake, director Lucy Bailey, singers Mark Padmore and Elaine Mitchener, London Sinfonietta CEO & Artistic Director Andrew Burke, shamanic practitioner Neil Brocklehurst and  Alison Tickell from Julie's Bicyle, a charity that supports the creative community to act on climate change and environmental sustainability.

Co-commissioned by the London Sinfonietta and The Royal Opera. Produced by the London Sinfonietta. Streaming by agreement with Faber Music Ltd. Supported by the Britten-Pears Foundation, The London Community Foundation, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and a generous group of individual donors. 

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Published: 16 Jan 2020