Canadian director Robert Carsen poses during a photo session in Paris on December 5, 2017. (AFP/Martin Bureau)
Migrants who survived a harrowing journey by sea to Italy are the backbone of a new Italian production of Mozart's opera "Idomeneus, King of Crete" whose monarch is washed to shore after almost drowning.
About 30 men and women from Africa and the Middle East, most of whom arrived in Europe by boat in recent years, are extras in the show which opens at Rome Opera on Friday.
In the updated version of the 1712 work conducted by Italy's Michele Mariotti, the dangerous Mediterranean is itself a central character, with images of a swelling sea projected by video over the stage.
The migrants either play refugees inside a camp surrounded by barbed wire or the soldiers guarding them.
"This show tells the story of migrants, and talks of war. It's a message that speaks to me and that's why I decided to participate," Aldul Razak, a young Somalian migrant who arrived two years ago by boat, told AFP.
The opera's main theme -- how to break through the cycle of destruction and conflict to arrive at peace and forgiveness -- is topical, organizers say.
"It's a metaphor for the current world," Canadian director Robert Carsen told journalists.
For the casting, Carsen turned to the Community of Sant-Egidio, a Catholic association based in Rome, which has helped nearly 3,000 people in refugee camps travel to Europe on humanitarian visas.
Migrant Bella Bodwin described how, growing up in Nigeria, she had always hoped to be onstage.
"All my life I've dreamed of being an actress and I never managed it. This, for me, is a first step," Bodwin told AFP.
The opera runs through November 16.
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