Artist Profile: Famed Director Franco Zeffirelli

By David Salazar

Italian Franco Zeffirelli is one of the great opera directors of the 20th century.

Born on Feb. 12, 1923, in Florence Italy, he lost his mother at age six. He graduated the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze in 1941 and fought during World War II. Once the war ended he resumed his studies. He initially set out to study art and architecture, but eventually switched to directing theater.

He was hired by Luchino Visconti and worked with him on a few projects; Visconti’s techniques would have a lasting impact on Zeffirelli.

He directed his first film “The Taming of the Shrew” in 1967 and a year later had a breakthrough with “Romeo and Juliet.” He started his opera career earlier, in the 1950s and had worked with a number of major artists throughout his career. He famously created a few productions for Maria Callas.

He was given honorary knighthood in 2004.

Signature Works

Zeffirelli has directed a plethora of renowned productions, all known for their intense attention to detail and verisimilitude. Perhaps, no production is more iconic that his take on “La Bohème.” This production is best-known at the Metropolitan Opera, where it still stands since the early 1980s.

He also directed a number of operas on film, most famously Verdi’s “La Traviata” and “Otello,” both of which received Academy Award nominations.

He also made the famed film adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” for which he was nominated for the Oscar.

Watch and Listen

Here is a taste of some of his productions.


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