Around 30 men and women from Africa and the Middle East who came to Europe by boat have landed parts in a new opera which opened in Rome.

The migrants, who arrived to Europe mostly by boat, will either play a refugee inside a camp surrounded by barbed wire or the soldiers guarding them. 

The production - a story of the dangerous Mediterranean sea, migrants and conflict - has been updated since its 1712 version conducted by Italy's Michele Mariotti. 

Canadian director Robert Carsen, who reworked the old opera, said: "It's a metaphor for the current world." 

While 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.

The Mediterranean itself is a central character in the production, with images of a swelling sea projected across the stage, creating a dark atmosphere and revealing the seas dangerous side.

One of the migrants who arrived by boat is a young Somalian man called Aldul Razak. He said the opera tells the story of migrants and talks of war, which made him want to participate. 

Organisers say that the opera's main theme of breaking through destruction and conflict to arrive at peace and forgiveness, is topical.

Migrant Bella Bodwin, who grew up in Nigeria, said 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," she said.

The opera runs until 16 November.