Global refugee crisis brought to life in a new opera

Former Afghan refugee co-writes a new opera to illuminate the global refugee crisis, offering a voice to the inhumane treatment of refugees worldwide for New Zealand audiences.

13 Apr 2021

Acclaimed composer Dr Michael Williams, with librettists Nida Fiazi, and internationally-awarded poet Dr Tracey Slaughter, from the University of Waikato, School of Arts, are developing the first act of: Du’a (Prayer) for Broken Shelter.

Michael Williams, Tracey Slaugher and Nida Fiazi

Michael says the opera brings to life the refugee crisis as it follows one family’s journey fleeing the trauma of their homeland to Aotearoa. The opera harnesses the powerful voice and lived experience of librettist Nida Fiazi, a former Afghan refugee.

It follows a family navigating the challenges of settling in Aotearoa and along their journey encountering a hate-crime that shakes their sense of belonging.

Following a series of workshops, led by Director John Davies, the first act of the opera will be performed in Hamilton on Saturday, 24 April and a second performance will follow in Auckland on Sunday 25 April.

Tracey says Nida was a student in her class at the University and from the moment Nida started submitting poems, Tracey knew her voice needed to be heard.

“Nida has her own incredible story. Because of  her own experience of being a refugee and of the refugee camps, she has a fierce eye on the current political situation,” says Tracey.

Tracey knew Michael was wanting to explore the refugee crisis through opera and they all got together and talked about collaborating to bring it to life, says Tracey.

Michael says music is a universal language and has the power to convey the story of the refugee crisis worldwide into every human heart.

“The global refugee crisis is one of the biggest issues in the world at the moment but one which authorities and systems worldwide seem to be washing their hands of,” says Michael.

Act 1 encapsulates the scale of the crisis and gives voice to the inhumane attitudes and treatment refugees receive at the hands of nations and authorities worldwide, he says.

“We have pulled no punches in capturing the violence and oppression and the ignorance as well. The capacity of authorities to look away and wash their hands of it as not their problem,” says Michael.

Following the release of Act 1, they hope to go on to complete and produce the full opera.

Du’a (Prayer) for Broken Shelter is a collaboration with New Zealand Opera. The cast includes well-known New Zealand baritone Phillip Rhodes, mezzo-soprano Kristin Darragh, soprano Stephanie Acraman, soprano Elizabeth Mandeno, The University of Waikato choir conducted by Rachael Griffiths-Hughes and orchestra led by James Tennant.

Act One Showcase Presentation in


  • Date: Saturday 24 April, 6.30pm
  • Venue: Dr John Gallagher Concert Chamber, University of Waikato
  • Location: Gate 2B, Knighton Road, Hillcrest, Hamilton


  • Date: Sunday 25 April, 3pm
  • Venue: Freemasons New Zealand Opera Studio
  • Location: 5/69 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell, Auckland

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