Obituary: Franco Zeffirelli, opera and film director and designer, 96

Posted on: June 18, 2019

“If the measure of an artist’s impact on an art form is gauged in terms of his name becoming an adjective, surely Franco Zeffirelli delighted in his opera productions being described as ‘Zeffirellian,’ ” writes Fred Plotkin in Saturday’s (6/15) Opera News. Zeffirelli died in Rome, Italy on June 15 at age 96. “His productions at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Arena di Verona, Covent Garden and elsewhere thrilled audiences with their opulence but often dismayed … some purists who felt that the grand spectacle overwhelmed the music and the dramaturgy…. In the late 1940s, while studying architecture in Florence, Zeffirelli … met [theater and opera director] Luchino Visconti [leading] to an invitation to create the scenery for the first Italian production of Tennessee Williams’s Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Visconti in 1949. The two men became lovers, and Zeffirelli … became Visconti’s acolyte, assistant and then collaborator in theater, opera and film.” Zeffirelli subsequently forged a wide-ranging international career of his own, directing several films, including La Traviata with Maria Callas and a landmark 1968 Romeo and Juliet, and many notable opera productions. “Zeffirelli’s La Bohème is the most frequently performed production in Met [Opera] history. By January 2015 it had been seen more than 450 times.”

Posted June 18, 2019