The Museum will host over 250 works by Maestro Zeffirelli, including set designs, drawings and costume sketches.
The Museum begins along the staircase that leads to the first floor, with a tribute to the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, recalling the historic productions of William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida – Franco Zeffirelli’s debut in scenography for the director Luchino Visconti (1949) – and, in the entrance corridor of the Museum, focusing on Euridice, set to music in the 1600s by Jacopo Peri (1960), both performed in the Boboli Gardens.
The entirety of contemporary artistic life, and not just that of Franco Zeffirelli, is retraced in an evocative and engaging manner: Zeffirelli’s early years in Florence; the meeting and collaboration with Luchino Visconti as his set designer in theatre and cinema; his opera debut with his “playful works” at La Piccola Scala and La Scala in Milan – with top performer such as Giulietta Simionato, Giuseppe di Stefano and Nicola Rossi; his collaborations with Maria Callas and orchestra conductors such as Carlo Maria Giulini and Gianandrea Gavazzeni; his first international successes in America, which included the inauguration of the renovated Metropolitan Opera House in New York with William Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra (1966), as well as the acclaim of his Shakespearian productions on London and Europe’s stages, from Romeo and Juliet (National Theatre, Old Vic 1960) to Hamlet (Rome, Teatro Eliseo 1960; London, National Theatre, Old Vic 1964) to Much Ado About Nothing (National Theatre, Old Vic 1965), and his productions of the most innovative playwrights of the 20th century (Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Venice, Teatro La Fenice 1963; A Delicate Balance, 1967; Arthur Miller, After the Fall, 1964; Peter Shaffer, Black Comedy, 1967, Rome, Teatro Eliseo). The numerous successes of the Maestro also include his adaptations of the works of Giovanni Verga (La lupa, Florence, Teatro della Pergola, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino 1965), Edoardo De Filippo (Saturday Sunday and Monday, London National Theatre, Old Vic 1973; Filumena Martorano, London, Lyric Theatre, 1977), Gabriele D’Annunzio (La città morta, Gardone Riviera, Teatro del Vittoriale, 1975) and Luigi Pirandello (Right You Are (If You Think So), 1984; Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1991), as well as the romantic theatre of Alfred de Musset (Lorenzaccio, Paris, Comédie Français, 1976) and Friedrich Schiller (Maria Stuarda, Florence, Teatro della Pergola, 1983).
Extraordinary productions in which Franco Zeffirelli directed exceptional casts: from the Old Vic Youth Theatre (John Stride, Judi Dench, Alec McCowen) to John Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft, from Susan Strasberg to Maggie Smith, Frank Finlay, Ian McKellen, Giorgio Albertazzi, Anna Proclemer, Monica Vitti, Joan Plowright, Laurence Olivier, Claude Rich, Paola Borboni, Andreina Pagnani, Ilaria Occhini and Valentina Cortese, as well as his Compagnia di Prosa comprising Rina Morelli, Sarah Ferrati, Annamaria Guarnieri, Fulvia Mammi, Paolo Stoppa, Umberto Orsini and Giancarlo Giannini. When putting together a production, Zeffirelli called upon, in some cases, the collaboration of costume designers like Peter J. Hall, Marcel Escoffier, Danilo Donati, Piero Tosi and Anna Anni as well as the music of Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, Roman and Alessio Vlad.
The display of Franco Zeffirelli’s opera productions, showcasing his unmistakable blend of director, set and costume designer, since the late 1950s, that he expertly complemented with the texts and music directed by conductors of international fame – Tullio Serafin, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, George Prêtre, James Levine and Carlos Kleiber, among others – is ordered by exceptional performers and composers.
Zeffirelli has instilled his versatile professionalism in his projects, dedicating repeated productions over the course of his career: from Maria Callas to Joan Sutherland, with whom he obtained immediate acclaim (La Traviata, Dallas, Civic Opera 1958; Tosca, London, Royal Opera House; Norma, Opéra de Paris, 1964; Lucia di Lammermoor, London, Royal Opera House, 1959; Alcina, Venice, Teatro La Fenice 1960; I puritani, Palermo, Teatro Massimo 1961/London, Royal Opera House 1964) to the series of operas by the famous Giuseppe Verdi (Falstaff, La Traviata, Aida, Othello, Don Carlo, Il Trovatore) and Giacomo Puccini (La Bohème, Tosca, Turandot, Madame Butterfly). These are all works that Franco Zeffirelli has revisited over the years, adapting them to the requirements of the diverse stages, from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan to the Met in New York, from monumental productions for the Verona Arena and for the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens to miniatures for the small Teatro di Busseto.
Consider the memorable performances of Carlo Bergonzi, Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto, Luigi Alva, Graziella Sciutti, Ilva Ligabue, Geraint Evans, Gianni Raimondi, Mirella Freni, Grace Bumbry, Franco Corelli, Cesare Siepi, Carol Vaness, Leyla Gencer, Teresa Stratas, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and the many other performers among the musical elite. In addition to a spectrum of leading performers for the world’s leading theatres, Zeffirelli enjoyed important collaborations on sets and costumes with Lila de Nobili, Renzo Mongiardino, Anna Anni, Piero Tosi and Maurizio Millenotti, who contributed to productions such as Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Georges Bizet’s Carmen (Vienna, Staatsoper 1972; 1978), projecting an artistic career begun in the 1950s in Italy on the stages of Milan, Genoa, Naples and Palermo, and launching Zeffirelli’s popularity among European audiences with the late 19th-century operas of Pietro Mascagni and Ruggero Leoncavallo, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci (London, Royal Opera House 1959). This heralded the beginning of Franco Zeffirelli’s success.
His fame and appreciation among an enthusiastic public on every continent helped to spread the artistic tradition of the Florentine Renaissance throughout the world. Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci also marked his first opera film performed by his constant collaborator, a young Plácido Domingo, alongside Elena Obraztsova and Teresa Stratas (1982).
This was a “cultural yardstick” that, drawing from the innovative contribution of revisiting Shakespearean theatre, was also a launchpad for Franco Zeffirelli’s international success as a film director.
The Taming of the Shrew, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, with set by Renzo Mongiardino and costumes by Danilo Donati (1967), – the same artists with whom Zeffirelli worked on Romeo and Juliet with young actors Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey (1968), and Brother Son, Sister Moon with Graham Faulkner in the role of Saint Francis and Alec Guinness playing Pope Innocent III (1972) – is the film that opens the museum dedicated to cinema and television.
In the years between the documentary Florence: Days of Destruction, filmed during the flood and which would contribute financially to the rebirth of his beloved city (1966), and Jesus of Nazareth (1977), with Robert Powell in the main role (in addition to a surprising cast of actors of global fame, which lent to the success of the television film that premiered worldwide to a record audience), Franco Zeffirelli attempted, but failed, to realize another cinematic project: Dante’s Inferno. His dream of “a place suspended in time, capable of smashing real and chronological perceptions, […] only to fall into an endless abyss” remained as a sort of sketched-out script that today, elaborated by computer, visitors can view in a large room adjacent to the museum where photos of Zeffirelli’s film sets are on display.
There is also an interesting itinerary of Franco Zeffirelli’s operatic films: La Traviata (1983), with costumes by Piero Tosi and photography by Ennio Guarnieri – a steady collaborator, together with the performers Plácido Domingo (Alfredo Germont) and Teresa Stratas (Violetta); Othello (1986), also with Domingo as well as Katia Ricciarelli (Desdemona); Hamlet (1990), starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close; Callas Forever (2002), in which Fanny Ardant played the role of the great soprano at the twilight of her artistic career and Jeremy Irons played her manager (2002); Young Toscanini (1988) transformed the great orchestra conductor’s escape to Brazil, in which Elizabeth Taylor plays the alter ego of the singer Nadina Bulichoff, into a restaging of the 1963 production of Aida at the Scala, with the original scenery by Lila de
Nobili; Sparrow (1993), based on the novel of the same name by Giovanni Verga, is the philological adaptation – in the costumes and set – of a late 19th-century Sicily that Zeffirelli experienced while filming La terra trama with Luchino Visconti (1948); Jane Eyre (1996), based on the book by Charlotte Brontë, masterfully performed by Charlotte Gainsbourg,
William Hurt and Joan Plowright; and Tea with Mussolini (1999), based on the English edition of Franco Zeffirelli’s autobiography, starring Plowright, with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Cher, in a tribute to the Florence of the director’s youth and adolescence. The itinerary also touches on what is perhaps Franco Zeffirelli’s longest dream, the unrealized film I Fiorentini, which speaks of a juvenile past that secretly finds its place in the spirit of the Renaissance, among the masterpieces of art and the conspiracies of a troubled city.
All the documentation regarding the works and set photos on display are accompanied by labels (in Italian and English) that state the dates, locations and casts of the performances and the cinematic and television productions.
Ticket price: 10 euro
Reduced tickets for pensioner and students under 18: 7 euro
Reduced tickets for disables: 7 euro
Free for children under 6.
Opening times: 10-18.
Ticket office closes at 17.
Closing day: monday.
FONDAZIONE FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI ONLUS
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