Franco Zeffirelli was born in Florence on 12 January 1923. Teatro alla Scala anticipates the celebration of the great director’s centenary with the exhibition “Franco Zeffirelli – The La Scala Years” curated by Vittoria Crespi Morbio. The exhibition will remain until 31 August in the Theatre’s Museum.
Curator Vittoria Crespi Morbio says that characteristic of Zeffirelli is “an idea of melodrama as theatre of everything and for all, not the closed world of an elite but the expression of a popular imagination”. The exhibition emphasises Zeffirelli’s taste for human relationships capable of transforming an opera production into a collective, communal effort: there are numerous photos (from theatre photographers Erio Piccagliani to Lelli and Masotti) showing the director in playful situations with the artists and workers involved in his shows.
Sketches, photographs, and costumes retrace Zeffirelli’s career at La Scala career with 21 productions from the costumes for L’italiana in Algeri the Piccola Scala (the smaller stage, which no longer exists) in 1953 to the Aida conducted by Riccardo Chailly on 7 December 2006, passing through legendary performances such as Il turco in Italia with Callas, the Bohème with Karajan (which will be revived in 2023 with the direction of Korean conductor Eun Sum Kim), the ‘second empire’ Aida with set designs by Lila de Nobili, the Otello directed by Kleiber that was the first opening of the opera season to be seen live on television, the Cavalleria rusticana in theatre and film, the Pagliacci in a contemporary suburb, the fairy-tale and celestial Turandot with Maazel, the monumental Don Carlo with Muti.
La Scala’s intendant, Dominique Meyer, said that “Franco Zeffirelli’s work at La Scala has left a mark that is very much alive on the history and identity of the theatre. His performances are still in the hearts and minds of all those who enter the auditorium, even those who have never seen them and being one of the legends of La Scala means precisely this – today not many people have seen Arturo Toscanini conduct, yet his presence is still felt.”
Asked to explain Zeffirelli’s success, the theatre’s musical director, Riccardo Chailly, said, “Zeffirelli’s greatness was to understand the profoundly human meaning of all the characters he put on stage and screen, in plays and operas. The humanity of his characters has touched audiences for decades and continues to move them today.”
Il turco in Italia
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.