Franco Zeffirelli Dies

Cher and Zeffirelli during the filming of “Tea with Mussolini”

Italian film director and opera producer Franco Zeffirelli,  passed away at home in Rome on June 15, 2019 at the age of 96.  He will be buried in the Porte Sante cemetery of San Miniato al Monte, above Florence.

Born in Florence in 1923, Zeffirelli, a descendent of the family of Leonardo da Vinci, rose to prominence in the ’60s with Romeo and Juliet (1968).  Starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, it gave Zeffirelli the first of his two Academy award nominations, along with La Traviata (1983).  He also created the well-loved Jesus of Nazareth (1977) and Tea with Mussolini (1999).  Starring Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin, the latter, a semi-biographical movie, is the story of a young Florentine part of a circle of English expatriates in Florence during the last days of fascism.

His documentary, Florence: Days of Destruction (1966), helped raised millions of dollars for relief and restoration efforts in Florence after the ’66 flood.  It was narrated by Richard Burton, with whom Zeffirelli was working with during the filming of The Taming of the Shrew (1966), also starring Elizabeth Taylor.

Zeffirelli is also renowned world-wide for his opera productions; his final project, a new version of La Traviata, will debut at the Arena of Verona on June 21, 2019.

He endowed the museum and archive of Zeffirelli Foundation in Florence, located in Piazza San Firenze.  (rosanna cirigliano)

To read more in Italian, visit La Repubblica’s news site.