“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. Zeffirelli made it his mission to make culture accessible to the masses. He is best known as the director of the 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, the most successful Shakespearian movie ever, starring a then-unknown Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. His “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” told the life of St. Francis in parables involving modern and 13th-century youth. Zeffirelli’s name was also inextricably linked to the theater and opera. Some of his productions have become worldwide classics.
“I am not a film director. I am a director who uses different instruments to express his dreams and his stories – to make people dream,” Zeffirelli told in an interview. Zeffirelli initially studied architecture, but said that after seeing Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (1944), he was inspired to make a career in theatre. In 1950, he began a long and fruitful association with lyric theater, working as a director, set designer and costumist, and bringing new life to works by his personal favorites: Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti and Verdi.