TWO retired greyhounds take centre stage in a lavish opera coming to the Alhambra this week.

A three-opera Opera and Ballet International festival opens on Thursday with Verdi's Rigoletto, featuring retired racing dogs Mac and Phoebe in the roles of Royal Greyhounds.

Keen to highlight the plight of greyhounds after their racing career is over, producer Ellen Kent contacted the Greyhound Trust West Yorkshire, which provided dogs for the performance.

The Greyhound Trust West Yorkshire said it supports the production of Rigoletto as it enables the organisation to raise the profile of greyhounds.

Mac is an eight-year-old black greyhound who retired from racing before the age of three and has been a pet for more than five years. Born in Ireland, most of his 39 races were at Sheffield. For the past four years has been a therapy dog, mostly helping recovering stroke patients. He also helps out at promotional events for the Greyhound Trust. His owner, Alistair Yager, is a volunteer for the West Yorkshire branch.

Three-year-old Phoebe was bred in Ireland and had a short racing career, retiring in 2016. Her handler is Andy Callaghan, also a volunteer for the Greyhound Trust West Yorkshire branch.

The production of Rigoletto, inspired by the tradition of renaissance painting, has lavish sets and opulent costumes. As well as greyhounds, it features a golden eagle with a seven-foot wingspan. Raised as part of an ongoing programme to re-introduce eagles back into the wild in Scotland, Isla is now part of an extensive breeding programme.

* Rigoletto is at the Alhambra on Thursday, La Traviata is on Friday and Madama Butterfly is on Saturday. For tickets call (01274) 432000.