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Belgium premiers opera casting Cassandra as climate change scientist

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's national opera house has premiered "Cassandra", an original score recasting the mythical figure of a doomed prophetess as a climate change scientist whose warnings about global warming go unheeded.

The play develops in parallel worlds, one inhabited by Cassandra, cursed by ancient Greek gods to be disbelieved by contemporaries as she foresees the fall of their city of Troy, which inevitably materialises in a bloody carnage.

Her modern incarnation is Sandra, a scientist specialising in analysing data from icebergs and terrified by the violent future she reads from the record pace of melting ice.

Unable to get her message across, Sandra takes to stand-up comedy to try to elicit a change in behaviour.

The sound of cracking ice blends into the music composed by Bernard Foccroulle, and librettist Matthew Jocelyn said some of the twists in the story were inspired by discussions with young climate activists.

As large white vertical sheets hanging in the background to resemble an iceberg drop to the ground one after another throughout the play, Cassandra and Sandra ponder if it is them who see more than the others, or do people refuse to acknowledge what lies in front of their own eyes, the question accentuated by the opera's blindfolded choir.

The 1-1/2 hour opera offers no catharsis, leaving the audience uncomfortable with Sandra's parting lines, a question she throws at people: "What now?"

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)