A British opera director has been lambasted by Italian MPs after staging an "anti-racist" performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute featuring a bulldozer poised to raze a migrant tent camp.
Graham Vick, of Birmingham Opera Company and a former director of Glyndebourne, revised the original plot in an experimental production at the Macerata opera festival.
"This is a massacre damaging Mozart and the spectators," said Senator Paolo Arrigoni of the right-wing League party.
Some spectators booed at the performance on Friday. In Vick’s version, the serpent in the tale is replaced by a bulldozer, seen by League MPs as ‘Salvinian’ because of their leader Matteo Salvini’s call in the past for gipsy Roma camps to be razed.
At one point, members of the choir fall down on the stage in what some critics took to be miming the fate of drowning migrants trying to reach Italy.
Arrigoni asked why Vick had not included a reference to Pamela Mastropietro, an 18-year-old girl who was murdered in Macerata by a Nigerian drug dealer. Her murder inspired an attack by a right-wing gunman who went on a shooting spree in the region and targeted Africans, wounding six.
Tullio Patasini, another League MP, said: "It is absurd to use theatre to justify flawed immigration policy, which has in particular affected the Maceratians.”
In the opera Vick identifies what he says are the three ills of modern society – the banks, Apple and the Catholic Church. As many as 100 local people take part in the show, which runs to Aug. 12, shouting slogans in a kind of Greek chorus.
He said that he hoped his production would act as "a punch in the stomach".
Mario Morgoni, an MP for the left-wing Democratic Party which controls the Macerata city council funding the festival, hit back at the League. “Among the acts that prepare the way for anti-democratic regimes, intolerance of culture and art are the most disturbing,” Morgoni said.
“I won’t go into the merits of the cultural event, though it was appreciated, but political mudslinging against this show is frankly grotesque.”
The Macerata festival theme this year is sustainability and community-building. The artistic director, Barbara Minghetti, said the festival is known for its "social relevance".