Goodbye, Dear Maestro!
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Festival in Media
2019-06-17

Franco Zeffirelli was an Italian director of operas, films and television. He sat opera designs movies, worked with Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio de Sica. His most famous film is Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare of 1968. Young heroes and their love left an unforgettable trace on the audience and till today, it is considered as one of the best examples of the Shakespeare film versions. Franco Zeffirelli died at the age of 96 in his own house.

Franco Zeffirelli, also Gian Franco Corsi Zeffirelli, was born in Florence on February 12nd, 1923. The boy born after the illegal marriage, where both were married, (mother was a fashion designer and father was a fabric merchant), couldn't be given any of the surname so his mother came up with "Zeffiretti", which are the "little breezes" mentioned in Mozart's opera Idomeneo. However, due being misspelled in the register he became Zeffirelli."I remember my father in flashes - he said in the interview with times in 2008, - " remember this gentleman came, especially at night," he said. "I woke up and saw this shadowy man naked in bed with my mother." After his mother died of TB, 6-year-old Franco was brought up by father's relatives.

He entered the University of Florence to study Architecture but he spent most of his time in theater group. After German occupation of Italy, when the country was in panic, Franco fought as partisan - he became an interpreter of the British soldiers. It is said that he survived from death with a miracle after he was captured by the fascists. People sitting at the two sides of the table found out that they were sons of the same man.

Gotten back to the university, he sees Laurence Olivier's Henry V and inspired by that, he goes to the theatre to work. He was working for a scenic painter in Florence and after he met Luchino Visconti, he spent several years beside him. He lives with him, works with him on scenic designs and he becomes costume drawer and decorator. He works as an assistant director on the film La Terra trema, Bellissima and Senso. - "Luchino showed me the world of creativity in theater and films, how to conceive an idea and how to bring together a whole world of culture that could embody it". 

The most important from his films are Shakespeare adaptations. In 1967, The Taming of the Shrew comes out on the screens starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, but as it turns out, at first, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroaini were supposed for these roles. A big resonance followed his second film which got out on the screens a year later - Romeo and Juliet, a film journalist Roger Ebert wrote about: "I believe Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet is the most exciting film of Shakespeare ever made". In 80's Franco Zeffirelli makes several films or opera designs adapted for the screen, which is broadly accepted by the audience with great success. It was followed by Hamlet with Mel Gibson and outstanding works: Jane Eyre, Tea with Mussolini and Callas Forever.


Generally, Franco Zeffirelli was actively involved in the opera life. From 1950 to the beginning of the 21st century he set performances be it in Italy as well as in the USA. His first serious work on stage was L'Italiana in Algeri by Gioachino Rossini, then Traviata with Maria Callas, Tosca set by for Metropolitan Opera, Don Giovanni and Turandot.

"I have always believed that opera is a planet where the muses work together, join hands and celebrate all the arts." - said Franco Zeffirelli.

"Franco Zeffirelli, one of the world's greatest men of culture, passed away this morning, Goodbye dear Maestro, Florence will never forget you." tweeted Dario Nardella, mayor of Florence

 

 

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